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Lisa Maria DiChiera 



The Graduate Program in Historic Preservation 

Presented to the Faculties of the University of Pennsylvania in 
Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of 



*Vid G. Dte-Lemg, Professor of ^rcnjie^tur 
Graduate Group Chairman and Advisor 

Andrew Craig Morrisorf; Architect, Reader 





List of Illustrations 
Chapter One: 

Chapter Two: 

Chapter Three: 

Appendix One: 

Setting the Stage: 

A History of the Early Movie Industry 

The Practice of C. Howard Crane: (1885-1952) 
Early Years of Traditional Design 

Later Years of Fantasy: 

The Big Studio Commissions 

A Working List of Crane's Theater 

Appendix Four: 
Appendix Five: 

Negotiations and Planning with the Fox Film 
Corporation: Letters and Minutes 

A Photographic Listing of Crane's Existing 
Theaters in Detroit 






Appendix Two: Illustrated Advertisements of firms under the 130 

patronage of C. Howard Crane & Associates 

Appendix Three: Architectural Source Books in the Collection 144 

of C. Howard Crane 






1. C. Howard Crane (From Reproductions of Work Designed and 
Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer George 
Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark Press, 

2. The National Theatre, Detroit (From W. Hawkins Ferry. The Legacy of 
Albert Kahn. 1970. Reprint. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1987, p. 55). 

3. The Orpheum Theatre, Detroit (From Thomas J. Holleman and James 
P. Gallagher. Smith, Hinchman and Grylls: 125 Years of Architecture and 
Engineering. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1978, p. 79). 

4. The Empress Theatre, Detroit, interior (Courtesy of Andrew Craig 
Morrison, Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

5. The Empress Theatre, Detroit, interior (Courtesy of Andrew Craig 
Morrison, Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

6. The Empress Theatre, Detroit, interior (Courtesy of Andrew Craig 
Morrison, Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

7. The Garden Theatre, Detroit (Courtesy of Andrew Craig Morrison, 
Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

8. The Central Presbyterian Church, Detroit (Silas Farmer. History of 
Detroit and Wayne County and Early Michigan: A Chronological Cyclopedia 
of the Past and Present. 1890. Reprint. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1969, 
p. 596). 

9. The Liberty Theatre, Detroit (From The American Architect, September 
23, 1914, no page number given). 

10. The Liberty Theatre, Detroit floor plan (From The American Architect, 
September 23, 1914, no page number given). 

11. The Liberty Theatre, Detroit, interior (From The American Architect, 
September 23, 1914, no page number given). 

12. The Palace Theatre, Detroit, longitudinal section (From The American 
Architect, September 23, 1914, no page number given). 


13. The Regent Theatre, Buffalo, longitudinal section (From 
TheAmerican Architect, September 23, 1914, no page number given). 

14. The Regent Theatre, Buffalo (From The American Architect, 
September 23, 1914, no page number given). 

15. The Palace Theatre, Detroit (From The American Architect, September 
23, 1914, no page number given). 

16. The Majestic Theatre, Detroit, floor plans (From Architectural Forum, 
June 1917, p.174). 

17. The Majestic Theatre, Detroit, logitudinal section (From Architectural 
Forum, June 1917, p. 176). 

18. The Majestic Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Architectural Forum, 
June 1917, p. 175). 

19. The Majestic Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Architectural Forum, 
June 1917, p. 175). 

20. The Majestic Theatre, Detroit (From Architectural Forum, June 1917, p. 

21. The Regent Theatre, New York City, Thomas Lamb, architect (From 
David Naylor. American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy. New 
York: Prentice Hall Press, 1981, p. 41). 

22. The Palazzo del Consiglio, Verona (From Sir Banister Fletcher. A 
History of Architecture on the Comparative Method. 1896. Reprint of 16th 
edition. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956, p. 665). 

23. The Doge's Palace, Venice (From Sir Banister Fletcher. A History of 
Architecture on the Comparative Method. 1896. Reprint of 16th edition. 
New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956, p. 555). 

24. Orchestra Hall, Detroit, interior (From Marquee: The Journal of the 
Theatre Historical Society, Vol. 21: No. 4, 1989, p. 5). 

25. Orchestra Hall, Detroit (From Marquee: The Journal of the Theatre 
Historical Society, Vol. 21: No. 4, 1989, p. 3). 

26. Orchestra Hall, Detroit, ornamental iron details (From the 
HABS/HAER Collections, Library of Congress, Washington DC). 


27. The Music Box Theatre, New York City (From Reproductions of Work 
Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer 
George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark 
Press, 1929). 

28. The Music Box Theatre, New York City (photo taken by writer). 

29. The Music Box Theatre, New York City (photo taken by writer). 

30. The Music Box Theatre, New York City, interior (From The American 
Architect - The Architectural Review, February 1, 1922, no page number 

31. The Music Box Theatre, New York City, section of floor plan (Courtesy 
of Louis Wiltse, Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

32. The Selwyn/Harris Theatres, Chicago (From Reproductions of Work 
Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer 
George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark 
Press, 1929). 

33. The Selwyn Theatre, Chicago, interior (From Marquee: The Journal of 
the Theatre Historical Society, Vol. 18: No. 2, 1986, p. 6). 

34. The Harris Theatre, Chicago, interior (From Marquee: The Journal of 
the Theatre Historical Society, Vol. 18: No. 2, 1986, p. 7). 

35. Grand Circus Park, Detroit, map (Courtesy of the Theatre Historical 
Society, Elmhurst, IL). 

36. The Allen Theatre, Cleveland, floor plan (From Architectural Record, 
November 1921, p. 361). 

37. The Allen Theatre, Cleveland, interior (From Architectural Record, 
November 1921, p. 358). 

38. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit (photo taken by writer). 

39. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Pencil Points, October 1922, 
p. 33). 

40. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Pencil Points, November 
1922, p. 28). 

41. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit, interior (photo taken by writer). 

42. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit, interior (From The Architectural Forum, 
June 1925, p. 382). 

43. The Capitol Theatre, Detroit, interior (From The Architectural Forum, 
June 1925, p. 383). 

44. The State Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Reproductions of Work 
Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer 
George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark 
Press, 1929). 

45. The State Theatre, the Allen Theatre, the Capitol Theatre, sectional 
diagram (From The Architectural Forum, June 1925, p. 384). 

46. The Palms Building and State Theatre, Detroit (From Reproductions 
of Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, 
Architect, Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: 
Denny A. Clark Press, 1929). 

47. The American Insurance Union Citadel, Columbus, Ohio (From 
Reproductions of Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard 
Crane, Architect, Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, 
Ohio: Denny A. Clark Press, 1929). 

48. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior mural (photo taken 
by writer). 

49. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (From David Naylor. 
American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy. New York: Prentice 
Hall Press, 1981, p. 115). 

50. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (From Marquee: The 
Journal of the Theatre Historical Society, Vol. 14: No. 2, 1982, p. 9). 

51. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (photo taken by 

52. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (photo taken by 


53. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (From 
Reproductions of Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard 
Crane, Architect, Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, 
Ohio: Denny A. Clark Press, 1929). 

54. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, interior (photo taken by 

55. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles (From Reproductions of 
Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, 
Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. 
Clark Press, 1929). 

56. The United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles (From Marquee: The Journal 
of the Theatre Historical Society, Vol.14: No. 2, p. 8). 

57. The United Artists Theatre and Office Building, Detroit (From 
Reproductions of Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard 
Crane, Architect, Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, 
Ohio: Denny A. Clark Press, 1929). 

58. The United Artists Theatre, Detroit, floor plan (From R.W. Sexton, ed. 
American Theatres of Today. 2 vols. New York City: Architectural Book 
Publishing Company, 1930, p. 106). 

59. The United Artists Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Reproductions of 
Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, 
Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. 
Clark Press, 1929). 

60. The United Artists Theatre, Chicago, interior (Courtesy of The Theatre 
Historical Society, Elmhurst, IL). 

61. The United Artists Theatre, Chicago (Courtesy of The Theatre 
Historical Society, Elmhurst, IL). 

62. Sectional Diagram for Brooklyn, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis Fox 
Theatres (Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

63. The Fox Theatre, Philadelphia (From Reproductions of Work 
Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer 
George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark 
Press, 1929). 


64. The Fox Theatre, Brooklyn (From Architecture and Building, 
November 1928, p. 352). 

65. The Fox Theatre, Brooklyn, diagram of lot and building (Courtesy of 
Louis Wiltse, Architect, Clarston, MI). 

66. The Fox Theatre, Brooklyn (From Reproductions of Work Designed 
and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer George 
Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark Press, 

67. The Fox Theatre, Brooklyn, interior (Courtesy of Andrew Craig 
Morrison, Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

68. The Fox Theatre, Brooklyn, interior (Courtesy of Andrew Craig 
Morrison, Architect, Philadelphia, PA). 

69. The Fox Theatre and Office Building, Detroit (From Reproductions of 
Work Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, 
Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. 
Clark Press, 1929). 

70. Dedicatory Edition of The Detroit Free Press for the Fox Theatre 
(Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

71. Dedicatory Edition of The Detroit Free Press for the Fox Theatre 
(Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

72. The Fox Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Reproductions of Work 
Designed and Executed thru the Offices of C. Howard Crane, Architect, Elmer 
George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates. Cleveland, Ohio: Denny A. Clark 
Press, 1929). 

73. The Fox Theatre, Detroit, interior (From Preston J. Kauffman. Fox: 
The Last Word - the Story of the World's Finest Theatre. Pasadena, CA: 
Showcase Publications, 1979, p. 13). 

74. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis, interior (photo taken by writer). 

75. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis, interior (photo taken by writer). 

76. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis, interior (photo taken by writer). 


77. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis, floor plan (Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, 
Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

78. The Fox Theatre, Detroit, floor plan (Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, 
Architect, Clarkston, MI). 

79. The Fox Theatre, Detroit (From Preston J. Kauffman. Fox: The Last 
Word - the Story of the World's Finest Theatre. Pasadena, CA: Showcase 
Publications, 1979, p. 12). 

80. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis (photo taken by writer). 

81. The Fox Theatre, St. Louis (photo taken by writer). 



The architectural practice of C. Howard Crane thrived in the city of 
Detroit for over twenty years. From the start of his career at a very young age 
his commissions consisted of banks, office buildings, apartment houses and 
large residences. However, the true success of Crane's firm came early as a 
result of his impressive ability to design elegant theaters of every scale. It was 
particularly his mastery of movie palace design that gave Crane prominence 
among such colleagues as Thomas W. Lamb and John Eberson. Interestingly, 
unlike Lamb and Eberson, Crane had no formal training in architecture. 
While the others designed for the legitimate stage before embarking upon 
motion picture theater design, Crane followed his instincts and immediately 
began to design buildings for motion pictures, based on his faith that this new 
art form would have widespread success. 

As the motion picture industry evolved, and the functional demands 

placed upon the theaters that would house its product increased, Crane's 

designs changed accordingly. Crane once stated: 

In general terms, there should be no specialists in the practice of 
architecture, since the theory of planning and designing is 
always the same; but achieving success with experience in 
designing and erecting buildings for a particular purpose will 
create special aptitude and ability in that particular field, which 
may be called merely "acquiring technique," to render better 
service for that particular work. 

By the time of the Depression, Crane's firm had designed over 300 theaters in 
the United States, Canada and England and over 50 theaters in the city of 
Detroit alone. Meanwhile, today the wrecking ball swings and cities allow for 
the endless deterioration of the few remaining examples of this grand 


architecture gone by, a style that once graced small towns and large cities alike. 
Therefore, this thesis has been written with the hope of stimulating an 
increased awareness of the movie palace era and the work of C. Howard 
Crane, one of the masterminds within this design movement. 

In completion of this thesis I want to thank David De Long and Craig 
Morrison for their devoted guidance and helpful advice. In addition, special 
thanks to William Benedict and the rest of the gang at the Theatre Historical 
Society for their continuous cooperation and informative contributions, 
always at one's beck and call. Thanks also to Hillsman Wright of the Los 
Angeles Historical Theatre Foundation, Louis Wiltse, former associate with C. 
Howard Crane and Associates, and Kitty Gushee, granddaughter of C. Howard 
Crane, all for their invaluable help. Personal thanks must go to John and my 
parents for their constant and loving support. Also, I want to acknowledge 
my appreciation to the board and staff of the Michigan Opera Theatre for their 
faithful efforts toward the restoration of the former Capitol Theatre, one of 
Crane's most beautifully designed theaters in the city of Detroit. 

Chapter One 
Setting the Stage: An Early History of the Movie Industry 

To understand how the movie palace became such an integral part of 
the film industry in the 1920' s, knowledge of the industry's fast and turbulent 
growth in the early years is necessary. While there is a world-wide debate as 
to who actually invented cinema, the American belief that Thomas Edison 
was the true inventor has the most evidence of being accurate.' On April 23, 
1896 Edison first publicly exhibited a projection of moving pictures on a 
screen with his machine called the Vitascope, at Koster & Bials' Music Hall 
near New York's Herald Square. 2 By 1903, store owners in many big cities and 
some small towns were converting their stores into places with movie shows, 
and hence developed the "Nickelodeon." The name "Nickelodeon" was 
conceived by John P. Harris of McKeesport, Pennsylvania who simply 
combined his admission price of five cents with the Greek word for theater. 3 
By 1910 districts of small, family owned businesses that replaced their simple 
storefronts with highly decorative and elaborately illuminated facades as a 
way of attracting audiences to the new moving picture shows were 
widespread. 4 However, many operations closed after only a few years because 
the owners realized they needed bigger theaters to accommodate the growing 
crowds of curious viewers. It was noticed by film exhibitors that the larger 
vaudeville houses were a perfect venue for the movie shows, which at this 

'Nick Roddick, A New Deal in Entertainment: Warner Brothers in the 1930s (London: 
British Film Institute, 1983), 9. 

1 Ben Hall, The Best Remaining Seats: the Story of the Golden Age of the Movie Palace 
(New York: Clarkston N. Potter, Inc., 1961), 13. 

5 Ibid. 

4 Ibid. 

time were simply short, black and white images of silent melodramas and 
comedies. At first the films were second billing in these theaters, following 
the popular stage acts. 5 But, "as motion pictures grew in both audience appeal 
and technical quality, they eventually took over the top spot in the act as well 
as the old vaudeville halls." 6 

Most of the men who would become the moguls of the large movie 
studios, such as William Fox, Adolph Zukor, and Sam Warner who opened a 
ninety-six seat store show in New Castle, Pennsylvania, started out in the 
business as theater owners. 7 The emergence of the movie studio system came 
about as the theater owners attempted to escape the restrictions of Thomas 
Edison's Motion Picture Patents Company, which gave him monopolistic 
control over the use of his machine and the American film industry. Those 
who wanted "to ensure for themselves profits greater than those potentially 
available to them as mere purveyors of somebody else's product.. .realized 
they would have to go into production as well." 8 After an anti-trust suit 
abolished the Motion Pictui e Patents Company, the movie industry was on its 
way. No longer would film-making be "secondary" to Edison's concentration 
on only the exhibition and distribution of his product.' 

At this point, theater owners such as Sam Warner, Carl Laemmle, 
Adolph Zukor and William Fox had no more experience in the industry than 
Edison. However, through their knowledge of the exhibition business, they 
had the advantage of first hand experience with audiences and their reactions, 

5 David Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy (New York: 
Prentice Hall Press, 1981)^5. 

6 Ibid. 

7 Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 12. 

* Roddick, A New Deal in Entertainment, 9. 

unlike Edison who "viewed the audience as anonymous consumers of his 
product." 10 The studio system began with a different perspective on how to 
make a profit, which was by controlling production, distribution and 
exhibition, and by aiming toward the needs of "an identifiable audience." " 
Eventually it would be realized that to gain and maintain this control, the 
studios would have to initiate a campaign to build and own chains of theaters 

In January, 1923, The American Review of Reviews published an 
article called "The Motion Picture Industry: 'Service' The Supreme Purpose." 
In the article's third segment, the "Magnitude of the Industry," the 
astounding development of the film exhibition industry was reported. 

Millions and millions of dollars are invested by theater owners 
in the theaters. There is an investment in real estate, 
equipment, and property of approximately $500,000,000... There 
are about 15,000 regularly operated motion picture houses in the 
United States... From the "Nickelodeon" of a decade ago, where 
motion pictures were shown in some old storeroom for a nickel 
admission price, to the three or four million dollar theater 
devoted exclusively to motion pictures, seating several 
thousand, with unexcelled orchestration and pipe-organ 
accompaniment, with stage and lighting effects unsurpassed, is 
an amazing record of progress. All these developments 
surrounding motion pictures have been so gradual and steady 
that we fail usually to appreciate the vast improvement of every 
phase of the industry. The motion-picture business has its 
production, sales, and retail branches just as in other industries, 
which are represented by the producer, distributor and exhibitor. 


By the time this article appeared, several lucky small theater exhibitors 

10 Roddick, 10. 

"Will H. Hays, "The Motion Picture Industry: 'Service' The Supreme Purpose," The 
American Review of Reviews, January, 1923, 69-70. 


had progressed to studio ownership, a position from which they now 

produced and distributed their own films. In the process though, they had 

lost the one branch of the industry with which they had started out having 

the most control. The exhibition of films and ownership of theaters 

continued to be in the control of separate corporations and independent, 

small chain exhibitors, which tended to be affiliated with or under contract to 

show the films of a particular studio. It was from these corporations that 

architects received their first commissions to design theaters with 

accommodations for film exhibition. Eventually the studio moguls became 

nervous that the corporate exhibitors, as they bought and built more theaters, 

would be able to overpower the studios. For instance by 1921, "the lack of a 

single Loew's theater in Chicago [was] evidence of the near-total domination 

of that city's theater exhibition by the team of A.J. Balaban and Sam 

Katz/'.whose recently built 3,880 seat Chicago Theatre had met with instant 

success." While Adolph Zukor had between 1912 and 1916 worked his way 

up from a small New York City exhibitor on Fourteenth Street, to the head of 

Paramount-Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, a $25,000,000 production and 

distribution company, he feared those who remained in the position that he 

once had. 14 As his biographer, Irwin Will, dramatically told the story, Zukor, 

...had revolutionized production.. .[and] had placed distribution 
in its modern relation to the business as a whole. Now, he began 
to look ahead into the future of exhibition, and to worry. 
Moving-picture houses, springing up like mushrooms all over 
the United States, were showing a decided tendency to assemble 
into "strings." Next the strings were twisting together into 
strong ropes which might yet strangle the producers. 

"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 47. 

"Irwin Will, The House that Shadows Built (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, Doran & 
Co., Inc., 1928), 


Corporations in New England, the Middle West, and California 
owned their ten, fifteen, even twenty-five new, well-equipped 
city theatres. The time might come when the more powerful 
groups would combine and hold producers at their mercy' 5 

It was this fear that by the mid twenties drove the movie studios to 
start on a purchasing, merging, and building rampage, forcing many small 
circuits out of business and becoming more lucrative and powerful in the 
process. 16 According to the November 8, 1928 issue of The Magazine of Wall 
Street, three companies, the Paramount-Famous Players-Lasky Corp., Loew's 
Inc., and Fox Film Corp. led the way, having gained the most interest in their 
stocks, through their acquisitions of theaters and their mergers with 
independent chains. The magazine reported further that "...the ultimate 
benefit will accrue to those companies having the best and most strategically 
located theatre outlets." 17 

Thus, "the day of the giant monolithic production/exhibition greats 
had arrived; major film studios acquired deluxe coast-to-coast outlets for their 
products in the ornate showcases and were embarking on impressive 
construction programs for further outlets." 18 To facilitate this nation-wide 
construction program, the architects who had worked for their home-town 
independent exhibitors to design numerous theaters for vaudeville and film, 
now stood by as experienced professionals to fulfill the wishes of the big 
studios. The most prominent among the group of architects who managed to 
catch the eyes of the top studio moguls, eager to build the ultimate palaces for 

15 Ibid., 249. 

16 Preston Kaufman, Fox - The Last Word: The Story of the World's Finest Theatre 
(Pasadena, CA. Showcase Publications, 1979), 6. 

17 H .W. Knodel, "Position and Outlook for Four Leading Moving Picture Companies," The 
Magazine of Wall Street, Nov. 3, 1928, 39-40. 

"Kaufman, Fox - The Last Word, 6. 

the exhibition of their films, were Thomas W. Lamb of New York, George and 
C.W. Rapp, Walter W. Ahlschlager and John Eberson of Chicago, and C. 
Howard Crane of Detroit (fig. 1). 


Chapter Two 

The Practice of C. Howard Crane: (1885-1952) 

Early Years of Traditional Design 

Following his death in August, 1952, C. Howard Crane's obituary in the 
Architectural Record read: 

C. Howard Crane, Detroit and London architect who had 
designed more than 200 theaters in this country, died August 14 
at his home in London. He was 67. 

Mr. Crane began the practice of architecture in Detroit and 
maintained an office there after he moved to London 20 years 
ago. Earl's Court of London, 118 ft-high arena seating 30,000, was 
among the structures for which Mr. Crane was architect; it was 
built over a network of six railway lines without stopping a 
single train during construction." 

While Earl's Court is acknowledged as a highlight of Crane's late career, it was 
less recognized that his two hundred or more theaters, designed between 1909 
and 1932, mostly for the exhibition of motion pictures, were Crane's greatest 
and most significant achievements. 

C. Howard Crane was born in Hartford, Connecticut on August 13, 
1885. 20 His name first appears in the Hartford city directory of 1903, working at 
the early age of eighteen, as a "draughtsman" at 78 1/2 Church Street. At the 
time he was living at 177 Ashley, with his father Charles E. Crane, a butcher. 21 
The 1904 city directory gives the same information, omitting Crane's 

"Architectural Record, October 1952,392. 

20 Mary Catherine "Kitty" Crane Gushee (Grosse Pointe, Michigan), telephone conversation 
with the writer, 11 February 1992. Unable to verify Crane's date of birth in Hartford. 

"Geer's Hartford City Directory, 1903 (Hartford, CT: The Hartford Printing Company, 
Printers and Publishers, 1903), 129.' 


employment address. 22 Crane's granddaughter "Kitty" Crane Gushee 
explained that it is not surprising that her grandfather, despite his youth and 
lack of education, was able to get himself work in Hartford, as he had a 
personality which enabled him to "weasel his way into anything." The 
family believes that Crane did not even finish high school. 23 

By the end of 1904 Crane had moved to Detroit. 24 According to Mrs. 
Gushee, Crane was lured there only after two years of experience in Hartford, 
because the rapidly growing city acted as "a magnet" for her grandfather's 
energetic ambitions. 25 In 1905, Detroit was already emerging as an automotive 
boom-town, and "the fabulous automotive fortunes of Detroit gave birth to 
some of the city's most overwhelming demonstrations of architectural 
virtuosity." 26 Playing a leading role in the development of Detroit's 
architectural maturity was Albert Kahn, who was gaining much recognition 
for his domestic and industrial designs. Mrs. Gushee emphasized that these 
two things, the excitement of a fast growing city and the office of Albert Kahn, 
were probably enough to convince Crane to move to Detroit. 27 

During his earliest years in Detroit, Crane worked again as a draftsman, 
first for the firm of Albert Kahn and later for the firm of Smith. Hinchman 

"Geer's Hartford City Directory, 1904 (Hartford, CT: The Hartford Printing Company, 
Printers and Publishers, 1903), 130. 

"Hartford Public High School, the only high school in Hartford until 1935, has no record 
of Crane's graduating between the years of 1900-1904. 

24 Hawkins Ferry, The Buildings of Detroit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1968), 

25 Mary Catherine "Kitty" Crane Gushee (Grosse Point, Michigan), telephone conversation 
with the writer, 11 February 1992. 

26 W. Hawkins Ferry, The Buildings of Detroit (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 
1968), 269. 

27 Mary Catherine "Kitty" Crane Gushee (Grosse Pointe, Michigan), telephone conversation 
with the author, 11 February 1992. 


and Grylls. Mrs. Gushee confessed the family story that Crane lied to Albert 

Kahn about his age in order to be hired into the office. The 1905 Detroit city 

directory, the first in which Crane appears, lists him as: 

Crane, C. Howard, chf. draftsman 
Field, Hinchman and Smith 
Rm 502, Brush Street* 

Crane's tenure in the office of Albert Kahn, apparently had only a brief 

duration during his initial months in Detroit. It was a stepping stone, 

however, in his quick transition to a higher position at Field, Hinchman and 

Smith, known since 1907 as Smith, Hinchman and Grylls. 10 In 1907, Crane left 

Smith, Hinchman and Grylls to become chief draftsman at the architectural 

office of Gustave A. Mueller. 31 But his stay with the German born architect 

was short. In 1908 Crane is not listed in the Detroit city directory and by 1909, 

he appears as: 

Crane, C. Howard, architect 
h. 443 Kirby Ave. W. 32 

Once independently established in late 1908, Crane immediately started 
receiving theater commissions. First among them was the Majestic Theatre, 33 
a small nickelodeon, which Crane designed within a building originally 

28 Ibid. The office of Albert Kahn, which does not have complete records of employees pre 
1920, can not verify Crane's employment. Kitty Gushee, however, does remember her 
grandfather speaking of the time he worked for Albert Kahn. 

"Polk's Detroit City Directory,1905 (Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co.), 896. 

so Thomas J. Holleman and James P. Gallagher, Smith, Hinchman & Grylls: 125 Years of 
Architecture and Engineering (Detroit: Wayne State University Press,1978), 68 

" Polk's Detroit City Directory, 1907 (Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co.), 848. 

"Polk's Detroit City Directory, 1909 (Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co.), 803. 

"A complete inventory of Crane's commissions, totalling 1026 projects, lists the Majestic 
Theatre as project #21. The Woodward Theatre is listed as #2, however there is no recordof it 
having been built. Inventory from the C Howard Crane archives collection, courtesy of Louis 
Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, MI. 


constructed in 1883, at 1449 Woodward Avenue. 14 From this point on, Crane's 
routine of designing offices, residences and store fronts gradually inclined 
toward more theaters. 35 Why and how Crane managed to specialize in theater 
design so early in his career is unclear. No theater commissions of note had 
been executed during Crane's years of employment at the Kahn, Mueller or 
Smith, Hinchman and Grylls offices. However, ironically in the years 
following Crane's time in the offices of Kahn and Smith, Hinchman and 
Grylls, both firms did have significant theater commissions. In 1910 Albert 
Kahn designed the National Theatre (fig. 2), a building with an ornate facade 
of terra cotta latticework, which housed vaudeville and moving pictures. 36 In 
1913, Smith, Hinchman and Grylls began the design work for the Orpheum 
Theatre (fig. 3), which was completed in 1914 for the production of 
vaudeville. 37 

Apparently, C. Howard Crane's early concentration in theater design 
was as incidental as the fast progression of the movie industry itself. 
Reflecting back on his career, Crane remarked in 1925: would be interesting to narrate the story of the motion 
picture house from its infancy to its present state of high 
development, and especially to consider how the architecture of 
this type of building has kept up with its rapid growth... I might 
say that I entered the field of designing motion picture houses 
when the industry was in its childhood, as one who early 
recognized the possibilities of developing a building especially 
designed as a motion picture theater. 38 

34 Andrew Craig Morrison, Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace (Dearborn, MI.: 
Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Museum, 1974), 18. 

35 Evaluated from inventory of Crane's commissions, C. Howard Crane archives collection, 
courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, Ml. 

M Morrison, 20. 
"Ibid., 22. 

S *C. Howard Crane, "Observations on Motion Picture Theaters," The Architectural Forum, 
June, 1925, 381. 


Like the Majestic Theatre, Crane's other earliest commissions 
were straightforward conversions of small stores into 
nickelodeons. These increasingly common jobs of "altering 
rooms into 'store shows'" could cost "as small an amount as 
$500." 39 As in many American cities at the turn of the century, 
Detroit saw an abundance of these nickelodeons spring up in the 
downtown area. The Casino Theatre, built in 1906, is known to 
have been the city's first moving picture house. It was a 
remodeled store owned by a man named John Kunsky, and was 
the first of several small nickelodeons that would come to line 
Monroe Street,* a growing entertainment district anchored by 
two important theaters, the Detroit Opera House of 1898 and the 
Grand Opera House of 1886. 4 ' This was the street on which 
Crane received a major commission, to design "Detroit's first 
taste of what was to become the movie palace." 42 

The Crane-designed nickelodeons had names typical of the genre, such 
as the Empire and the Empress (figs. 4-6), both built in 1910. While many of 
these early works were scattered along Monroe Street and also Woodward 
Avenue, the city's main street, other nickelodeons by Crane and many others 
could be found throughout the city, as they were becoming a common staple 
of every neighborhood. 

While Crane continued to plan store conversions for nickelodeons for 

many years onward, the Columbia Theatre of 1911 on Monroe Street, 

containing 1006 seats, was the commission that firmly established his career 

as a theater architect. 

The Columbia was a theatre of firsts. It was the first large 
moving picture and vaudeville theatre to invade the realm of 
the nickelodeon on lower Monroe Street, and, indeed, was the 
first major moving picture theatre in the city. It was the first to 
use an orchestra to accompany the moving picture and the first 
to contain a theatre pipe organ. It also was the first large theatre 

"Thomas Nolan, ed., Architecture and Building, May, 1911, 319. 
40 Morrison, Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace, 7. 
" Ibid., 1. 


designed by C. Howard Crane, who was later to design virtually 
all of Detroit's major show places. 43 

The 1912 Detroit city directory lists an A. Arthur Caille as the president of the 
Columbia and John H. Kunsky as the treasurer. 44 This theater, so great in size 
and accommodations, must have convinced John Kunsky that Crane was the 
best theater designer in the city. As the owner of Detroit's first nickelodeon, 
the Casino, Kunsky soon rose to become the city's premiere theater owner 
and movie exhibitor. With him on that road to success he took C. Howard 
Crane, who would design the majority of Kunsky's extravagant motion 
picture and vaudeville houses. 

In counterpoint to the large scale Columbia, Crane's nickelodeon 
commissions remained plentiful. In 1912 they included the Vaudette on 
Gratiot Avenue, the Comique on Broadway and the Hippodrome on 
Woodward Avenue. However, as motion picture audiences grew larger, so 
did the theaters. In the same year, Crane designed the Garden Theatre (fig. 7) 
for John Kunsky on Woodward Avenue. 45 With 903 seats, the Garden was 
"Detroit's first large neighborhood theatre, [and its design] featured a trellised 
and foliated interior to match its name." 46 

By the end of 1914, C Howard Crane had had a successful stream of 
larger-scaled commissions. 47 Reflective of the advancement of the movie 

"Ibid., 9 

"Polk's Detroit City Directory, 1912 (Detroit: R.L. Polk & Co.) 

"The Detroit City Directory for 1916 lists the Garden Theatre, 727-29 Woodward Avenue, 
as under the management of Garden Theatre Inc. John H. Kunsky president and treasurer, 2205- 
10 Dime Bank Building. 

46 Morrison, 13. 

47 The inventory of Crane's commissions does not give dates, only project numbers. It lists the 
Garden Theatre, built in 1912, as project #85 and the Regent Theatre in Buffalo, built in 1914, as 
project #141. Crane had 17 other theater commissions between the time (1912-1914) of those 
stated above. 


industry, he no longer was receiving as many nickelodeon jobs as requests for 
theaters which seated anywhere from 350 to 1500. Crane also by this time had 
managed to promote himself in cities other than Detroit. Theater 
commissions came from Canton, Ohio, Ontario and several places in upstate 
New York. 

1914 also saw the first national publication of Crane's work. The 
September 23, issue of The American Architect, in an article entitled "The 
Development of the Moving Picture Theatre." featured three of Crane's 
recent works. Over a thirteen page spread were presented Detroit's Liberty 
Theatre, of 1913, the Palace Theatre in Detroit and the Regent Theatre in 
Buffalo, both of 1914. The text of the article focused on Thomas W. Lamb's 
1914 Strand Theatre on Broadway in New York, whose owners proclaimed it 
to be "...the most beautiful, comfortable and up-to-date theatre in the world," 48 
but the images of Crane's work eloquently expressed his aptitude for elegant 

Various influences and design techniques of the day can be seen in all 
three of Crane's featured theaters. The Liberty, around the corner on Farmer 
Street, the second of Crane's three theaters in the Monroe Street district, was 
clearly built within the shell of the former Central Presbyterian Church, 
originally built in 1871 (fig.8). 49 The original use was revealed on the outside 
by the steep gable roof which rose at the ends of the building (fig. 9). 50 For the 
theater conversion, Crane chose to reverse the original orientation of the 
church. The narthex of the church became the theater's backstage and the new 

"Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 39. 

""Central Presbyterian Church Converted for Moving Pictures/' The Detroit News Tribune, 
11 Feb 1913.. 

50 Morrison, Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace, 17. 


entrance foyer was put at the former front of the church, extending across the 
original altar area (fig. 10). It passed across the rear of the auditorium, which 
could not be expanded beyond the existing building envelope and so was 
fitted tightly within the former worship space. Decoratively the interior was 
transformed into a truly theatrical environment (fig. 11). Anchorages of the 
original trusses were retained and incorporated ornamentally into new 
pilasters, which were added at both sides of the proscenium. The decoration 
was in the Renaissance style, with delicate ornament lining the walls and 
intricately painted garlands and floral motifs spread across the ceiling. The 
ceiling, lowered and flattened in the remodeling was articulated with shallow 
recessed panels. This was in keeping with architectural attitudes of the day, 
which reflected an ambivalence toward historical accuracy in the design of 
this new building type to house motion pictures. As set forth in an article 
entitled "The Moving Picture Theatre" in the May, 1911 issue of Architecture 
and Building , the advice was, 'The question of acoustics requires thought; 
and in the long, narrow rooms this becomes a difficult problem with an 
uncertain answer. Curved ceilings, domes, etc., should be avoided." 5 ' 
Ironically, years later, Crane and others went on to use every dome and curve 
conceivable in their theater ceilings, to add to the decorative effect. 

During these early years of Crane's theater work, he would surely have 
been aware of the many architectural publications with articles following the 
evolving form of the moving picture theater, as a new building type. Stated 
in many of these articles was an idea that originated with the nickelodeons, 
that of luring audiences by the means of theaters with flashy and exciting 
facades. Encouraging this practice, as well as that of creating breathtaking 

Nolan, Architecture and Building, 321. 


interiors, a 1911 Architecture and Building article stated, 

The exterior decorations are generally made very gaudy, in order 
to attract attention; and, as a rule, this is one of the requirements 
fixed by the owners. The lobby and cash-booth should be made 
as enticing as possible. The walls and ceilings of the auditorium 
require a certain amount of decoration to make it bright and 
cheerful in the eyes of the public, and a highly ornamental 
proscenium arch is desirable. E 

Thomas W. Lamb of New York led the way with this ideal, and was 
considered the earliest architect to master the moving picture theater. There 
is no doubt of his influence on Crane, who would have seen his work 
published as early as 1911. Lamb embellished his theaters with Classical 
ornament, and later became known for his constant use of "Adamesque" 
decoration, a Roman style adapted in 18th century England. 53 

The interiors of Crane's Palace and Regent Theatres featured in the 
1914 American Architect exhibited a similar borrowing from the Classics. 
Using a mixture of eighteenth century Neo-Classicism and restrained 
adaptations of the Baroque and Rococo, the interiors of these theaters were 
elegant, with molded panels and ornate columns (figs. 12-13). Additionally, 
the Palace had the added features of draped archways and plaster 
ornamentation in the form of linked garlands of flowers, all giving the 
impression of palatial grandeur, consistent the theater's name. 

The exteriors of these theaters hinted at the grandness of Crane's later 
facades. The Regent (fig. 14) shared its front with four commercial spaces. 
Ironically, with its massing and expression of the structural frame, it slightly 
resembled the factory and commercial work which Crane would have seen in 

'Nolan, Architect u re and Building, 321-322. 

'Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy, 44. 


the office of Albert Kahn. The central portion of the facade, though clearly set 

off the entrance to the theater with a stylish marquee and an octagonal ticket 

booth. The narrow facade of the Palace (fig.15), on the other hand, featured a 

single one and a half story arch. Architectural historian Richard Longstreth 

has termed buildings with this type of facade the " Vault." u Crane's use of 

this motif was in keeping with his adaption of various classical forms. As 

Longstreth has further noted, while "the vault has no specific historical 

lineage.. .[it is] an idea associated with fortified complexes from ancient times 

through the 19th century, with building elements such as the entry zone of 

some Italian Renaissance palaces and with monuments such as triumphal 

arches." Crane may have possibly gotten the idea for the single arcuated 

facade motif from Albert Kahn's 1910 National Theatre, which stood on the 

same block as the Palace. Crane would use a more elaborate version of this 

design again, most notably in his famed St. Louis Fox. 

In the November, 1915 issue of Architectural Record, there was an 

article entitled "Planning the Moving Picture Theatre." The author noted the 

intensity with which the American public was craving the new 

entertainment medium. 

To satisfy this demand a great number of buildings have been 
constructed, or,in many cases, altered, the total number of 
moving picture theatres in the United States being now 
estimated at over twenty thousand, with a daily attendance of 
more than five million - one in twenty of the total population of 
the country." 

This fact was consistent with the increasing number of motion picture theater 

"Richard Longstreth, The Buildings of Main Street: A Guide To American Commercial 
Architecture (Washington DC: The Preservation Press, 1987), 109. 

"John J. Klaber, "Planning the Moving Picture Theatre," Architectural Record, November, 


commissions Crane was receiving each year. The author further added: 

The design of buildings for the exhibition of moving pictures is 
not a problem of very great difficulty. The auditorium presents 
few special problems not found in all theatres, and its usually 
small size and few balconies further simplify the problem. 56 

While the author neglected to acknowledge their ever increasing sizes, he 

was correct in stating that most of the new theaters were being built with no 

more than one balcony. Auditoriums without balconies were the rule in 

Crane's theaters, at least during this early phase of his work. 

In the June, 1917 issue of Architectural Forum, Crane's Majestic 

Theatre, built on Woodward Avenue in Detroit in 1915, was featured in the 

article entitled "The Motion Picture Theatre: Comparison of Two Types of 

Plan." As in many of his early theaters, including the previously noted Palace 

and Regent, Crane designed the Majestic along the plan called by some 

architectural critics the "bleacher type," and by others the "stadium" type. 

This differed from the "legitimate theater type," which had multiple 

balconies. In comparing the two, the article promoted the bleacher type as 

being more practical and economical. 57 The Majestic, seating 1651, was 

considered the ideal example of the bleacher plan, which was explained as the 


It will be noticed that in this type there is no balcony or gallery, 
but that the floor from the orchestra pit to the back row of seats is 
practically one continuous sweep. The rear section, as will be 
observed, is raised at a faster pitch than the usual gradients 
allowed in aisles, in order to accommodate lobbies, vestibules, 
foyers, coat room, check room, etc., underneath. 

In this plan the entrance to the auditorium comes 
approximately in the center of the interior, so that all seats 


"Charles A. Whittemore, "The Motion Picture Theatre: Comparison of Two Types of Plan,' 
Architectural Record, November, 1915, 540. 


throughout are equally accessible. The entrance from the street 
to the lobby may or may not be in the center. 56 

In the Majestic, the entrance to the theater was in the center, flanked on both 
sides by three stores (fig. 16). These "sub-rental" spaces were part of the plan 
of Crane's Regent Theatre in Buffalo as well, and was considered an 
additional advantage of the bleacher type. However not much later in time, 
these rental spaces would also be incorporated in theater buildings of the 
legitimate type since they supplied an extra means of income and continued 
to be considered a good investment for theater owners. 5 ' 

The advantages of the bleacher type for the exhibition of motion 
pictures included comparable, if not better acoustics, ventilation, and most 
importantly, sight lines, with overall less expenditure. While a greater 
number of seats could ultimately be obtained by using the legitimate theater 
type in comparison to that of the bleacher, some critics claimed that it was the 
bleacher type that could enable every seat in the house to be just as good as 
the next, and therefore equally desirable. 60 Of course, by the time the large 
movie palaces accommodating up to 5000 seats were being built, the use of a 
balcony was a necessity. 

Crane and other architects who used the bleacher plan, also realized the 
the advantage it gave in the placement of the projection booth in relation to 
the seating levels, and the improvement in the angle of its ray of light. With 
its low lying arrangement of seats (fig. 17), the bleacher type theater allowed 
the projection booth to be placed directly opposite the center of the screen. 
This was considered the most desirable placement for the booth as it achieved 

"Ibid., 171. 
"Ibid., 174. 
80 Ibid., 172. 


the correct projection angle. In the multiple balcony plan of the legitimate 
theater type, the usual placement of the booth above the uppermost balcony 
would cause the angle of the ray of light to project higher than the screen's 
desired center. 61 

Crane's interior for the Majestic was elegant, with refined plaster 
ornament covering the walls and ceilings (figs. 18-19). The auditorium walls 
had multiple sets of double pilasters bordering sections that contained the box 
seats. The entrances to the boxes were capped by broken pediments with 
central urns, while above each entrance was a large oval cartouche linked to 
adjacent sections by ribbon-like swags. The interior's overall design was a 
mixture of various borrowings, in particular English neo-classism. 

The facade of the Majestic (fig. 20) closely resembled Thomas Lamb's 
Regent Theatre (fig. 21), built in 1913 and still standing in New York's lower 
Harlem district. Like Lamb, Crane incorporated an arcade of store fronts on 
either side of the entrance to the theater. Two rows of arched windows on the 
second level were reminiscent of Lamb's third level twin loggia. In addition, 
the surface treatment of the Majestic, with its pattern of diamond shaped tiles, 
was nearly identical to that of the Regent. 

The Regent is thought to be New York's first large theater built 
expressly for the exhibition of motion pictures." According to theater 
historian Ben Hall, "Lamb gave the Regent a facade modeled on pure Italian 
Renaissance lines with an arcade of store fronts reminiscent of the Palazzo del 
Consiglio in Verona and two well proportioned loggie looking out over 
Seventh Avenue." 63 Undoubtedly, Crane was aware of the success of the 

61 Ibid., 176. 

" Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 40. 

"Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 105-106. 


Regent and was also familiar with Lamb's stylistic inspirations. For while he 

may have adopted Lamb's Regent as a design idea, it is likely that Crane 

would have gone directly to the historic source as well. Once having seen the 

Regent, Crane probably studied directly the Palazzo del Consiglio in Verona 

(fig. 22) or the Palace of Doges in Venice (fig. 23), which has also been 

suggested to have been an inspiration for Lamb. 64 Images of both of these 

famous buildings were easily accessible, and could have been seen by Lamb 

and Crane in such well known books of architectural history, such as Sir 

Banister Fletcher's A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method, 

first published in 1896. Such books were kept at close hand by architects, who 

were constantly searching for new sources (Appendix 3). The similarities 

between the Regent's facade and that of Crane's Majestic thus are not 

surprising. Borrowing, with only some modification, of earlier, well known 

and widely published designs would become a common practice among all of 

the movie palace architects. As they set out to conceive this new type of 

building, copying not only one another, but specific buildings and styles, 

became an accepted routine. 

The movie palaces were the offsprings of a long and 
distinguished collection of buildings, dating back as far as the 
ancient Greek amphitheaters and through the formal stages of 
the seventeenth century. Baroque palaces, Mediterranean 
palazzos, Gothic cathedrals, and the temples of the Far East 
served to inspire the designers of the grandest movie theaters." 

While Crane eventually became known for his broad eclecticism, 6 * through 

"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 40. 

"Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy, 17. 

" Andrew Craig Morrison and Lucy Pope Wheeler, "Orchestra Hall: Detroit: C. Howard 
Crane Architect," Marquee: The journal of the Theatre Historical Society (Fourth Quarter, 
1989): 4. 


the mid 1920's he worked primarily in classicizing modes. 67 

By 1919, most of Crane's theater commissions were buildings to house 

motion pictures, accompanied by vaudeville. The attitude regarding theater 

architecture at the time was reflected in the opening statement of the 1915 

Architectural Record article "Planning the Moving Picture Theatre." The 

author stated, 

The growth in popularity of moving-picture entertainments 
during the past twenty years has been one of the most 
remarkable phenomena of modern life. The regular theatre has 
suffered greatly from this new form of amusement, and, in 
addition, a new public has been formed, indifferent to the older 
drama... 68 

But even though this statement was generally true, there were exceptions and 
Crane was employed to design several impressive legitimate theaters as well 
as his numerous theaters for cinema. 

In 1914, a symphony orchestra for the city of Detroit was formed, 
despite that the city did not have a true concert hall. As the orchestra grew in 
reputation, the position of permanent conductor was offered to the Russian- 
born pianist and conductor Ossip Gabrilowitsch, who had been a popular 
guest conductor in previous years. 69 Gabrilowitsch agreed to come Detroit 
only if the city built a proper concert hall worthy of his talents. Not willing to 
let pass the opportunity to have a first-rate conductor, the directors of the 
Orchestral Association decided immediately to build a new hall. C. Howard 
Crane was selected as the architect. 70 

67 Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy, 60. 

68 Klaber, "Planning the Moving Picture Theatre," Architectural Record, 540. 

" "Orchesh-a Hall: Detroit," Marquee: Journal of the Theatre Historical Society, 4-5. 
70 Ibid. 


Clara Clemens, the wife of Ossip Gabrilowitsch, gave a comical account 

of the commencement of Orchestra Hall's construction in her book My 

Husband Gabrilowitsch. With Gabrilowitsch having given the Detroit 

Symphony Society only five months time to take action until the opening of 

the next season, the committee had to work fast. 

Indeed! Four or five months to erect a hall with every possible 
modern convenience and luxury? And the money, a million 
dollars. Where was that to come from? Overnight, too. 
Gabrilowitsch was absolutely crazy. But it is that sort of craziness 
that effects the impossible. Within a week or two, as if by magic, 
the money was raised, the property selected - and paid for. 
Urgently was it impressed upon the architect that the hall must 
be finished by a certain date - so urgently in fact that the church 
standing on the acquired property began to crumble under the 
hands of the demolishers while a bride and groom were 
attempting to face the marriage ceremony: "I do take thee to be 
my lawful-," hammer-hammer-hammer, "-wife, for better, for-," 
chog-chog-chog, "-worse, for richer, for poorer-" Dust, choking 
dust! "-in sickness-" Look out! The roof is falling in! "-and in 
health, 'til death us do-" You better move a little, they are going 
to blast a wall. It is to be hoped that the poor couple did not take 
these violent interruptions as an evil omen, but a radical spirit 
of conquest is like a perpetuum mobile; it can't wait. Most of the 
time between May and October, workmen had to be engaged in 
night shifts. It was a thrilling sight, this swift, steady growth of a 
concert hall in the midst of an industrial city. And in spite of 
great haste to meet an inflexible date, the magnificent architect, 
Mr. Robert [sic] Crane, conceived and built a concert hall that not 
only Detroit, but all America may be proud of. The size was 
exactly right, both artistically and practically. It seated 2200 
people and the acoustics filled the requirements of musical 
sound. The soft decorations in blue-green shades gave esthetic 
pleasure - in fact, one fell in love with the place. "Orchestra 
Hall" was opened on the very date set for the first concert of the 
season, in the autumn of 1919 - a very Temple consecrated to the 
holiest Muse. 71 

71 Clara Clemens, My Husband Gabrilowitsch (New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 
1938), 121-122. 


Although unfortunate that Mrs. Gabrilowitsch remembered C. Howard 
Crane's name incorrectly, the great maestro and all of Detroit was greatly 
impressed with his achievement. With his new associate Elmer George 
Kiehler, Crane designed the theater in a typical classical mode (fig. 24), using 
"a restrained and elegant adaptation of the Renaissance style..." 72 

The hall came to be renowned for its superb acoustics, which according 
to Elmer George Kiehler was "partly a matter of luck." He explained that 
"when Crane simply built a building that pleased the eye, it was found 
pleasing to the ear as well." 73 Considering that Crane had no formal training 
in engineering, it does seem that it was due to luck that he produced the 
beautifully designed three-step ceiling that gives Orchestra Hall still such 
wonderful acoustics today. One thing Crane certainly had learned, however, 
was a sense for flexibility. In addition to being acoustically suitable for a great 
symphony orchestra, Orchestra Hall contained facilities for motion picture 
projection and stage productions. This was lucky for the fate of the theater, 
which did indeed become a moving picture house, as well as a theater for jazz 
after the symphony left for a larger hall in 1939. 74 

Orchestra Hall's facade (fig. 25) features a central five-bay section at the 
second and third floors. The facade's only windows above street level are in 
this section, bordered on each side by Corinthian pilasters, which rest on the 
entablature of the first story, which is faced in limestone. The capitals of the 
pilasters are connected by ribbon swags above the second level of windows, 
and the entire composition of pilasters and windows are capped by an 
ornamented entablature. The rest of the building is of yellow brick, the main 

72 "Orchestra Hall," Marquee: The lournal of the Theatre Historical Society, 6. 
"Ibid., 7. 
74 Ibid., 5-6. 


facade capped by an elaborate entablature as well. 75 Originally the theater had 
a wide projecting iron and glass marquee, suspended over the entrance. 76 A 
drawing of the marquee in the possession of Smith, Hinchman and Grylls, 
shows the precise care that Crane's office used in designing the smallest and 
most ornate details of even this minor part of the theater's overall scheme 
(fig. 26). 

It is plausible to speculate that the success of his design for Orchestra 
Hall brought Crane recognition as an architect proficient in the design of 
legitimate theaters, as well as those for motion pictures. In the following 
years, 1921 and 1922, he received two significant commissions from the 
theater producer Sam H. Harris, for new playhouses in New York and 

On September 22, 1921, Crane's Music Box Theatre (fig. 27) was opened 
on 45th Street and Broadway by co-owners Sam Harris and Irving Berlin, with 
a show called "Irving Berlin's Music Box Revue." 77 As reported by Laurence 
Bergreen, in Irving Berlin's biography As Thousands Cheer, after the opening 
night, the two men were frightened of the thought of their theater's fate. 
They had spent far more money than they had ever expected on the entire 
project, $947,000 for the theater alone, and with the additional expenses of 
producing the show, they could not afford to take any losses. 78 The 
investment paid off. The following day the New York Times review of the 
show proved it be an overwhelming success, and the critic went on to state 

""Orchestra Hall." Historic American Buildings Survey, No. MICH-271. 

7s Ibid., 14. 

"Mary C. Henderson, The City & the Theatre: New York Playhouses from Bowling Green 
to Times Square (Clinton, NJ: James T. White & Co., 1973), 260. 

7 * Laurence Bergreen, As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin (New York: Viking 
Penguin, 1990), 179. 


that Harris and Berlin "' have builded them a playhouse in West Forty-fifth 

Street that is a thing of beauty in itself.'" 79 Other comments about the theater 

ranged from pessimistic views regarding its high cost, "The boys think 

they're building a monument, but they're building a tombstone,'" to '"It 

stinks from class,'" as Berlin remembered the comedian Sam Bernard saying. 80 

The Music Box was, according to Berlin, " of the few Broadway houses 

with an interesting facade," and was to him a "dream of a theater." 81 

For many, the Music Box would become a symbol of what attending 

theater on Broadway was all about. 82 That is, seeing wonderful productions in 

a theater that was a great production itself. Irving Berlin's biographer stated: 

As plans for the theater began to materialize, the Broadway 
theater community sensed that something unusual was taking 
shape in its midst. Designed by C. Howard Crane, a prominent 
architect based in Detroit, Michigan, the Music Box featured a 
dignified facade combining aspects of both French Provincial and 
Italian Renaissance architecture. A loggia and four imposing 
columns soon loomed above 45th Street, flanked on either side 
by pavilions. The gray Indiana limestone used for the exterior 
gave the structure a welcome sense of gravity that effectively 
offset its whimsical, if symmetrical design. 83 

Whimsical it was in that Crane designed a grand building, but at a domestic 
scale (figs. 28-29). The facade is characterized by arched dormer windows in a 
balustraded gable roof, and originally there were shutters at the sides of the 
two third floor windows, each of which is placed over a second floor 
Palladian window. The overall effect is that of a Colonial mansion. 

" Alexander Woollcott, "The Music Box Begins to Play," New York Times, 23 September 

•"Gussow, "The Music Box Takes a Bow at 50," New York Times, 60. 

" Ibid., 57. 

■ Gussow, 60. 

"Bergreen, As Thousands Cheer, 177. 


Sam Harris and Irving Berlin placed specific requirements on Crane's 
design. For instance, there was to be one distinctive second-floor box on each 
side of the auditorium (fig. 30). Crane distinguished these seating areas by 
highlighting them with grayish-silver ornamental iron rails centering them 
in a six-columned niche. 'The boxes flowed smoothly into the proscenium, 
giving the entire auditorium a decidedly sleek finish, as well as superior sight 
lines. 84 

According to Bergreen, Berlin was particular about the interior of the 
theater, and emphasized that he wanted "understated luxury." This 
environment Crane successfully achieved. With a seating capacity of 1,010, 
Bergreen adds that the "antique ivory and soft green " interior "caused most 
of the talk, for it was as lavish as any on Broadway, yet restrained..." 85 Indeed 
this is true, as the New York Times reported the day after its opening that 
"...there's this odd thing about the theatre itself. It is not only cozy, but 
beautiful." 86 Berlin also made sure that the feeling of luxury was carried 
through to the dressing rooms as well, and "they were as lavish and carefully 
lit as the rest of the theater." 87 

Despite the theater's success, an interesting rumor circulated about the 

Music Box. Irving Berlin, troubled by the unexpected rising costs of the 

project, placed part of the blame on Crane, who, he alleged forgot to include a 

box office. Berlin's biographer Laurence Bergreen tells the story in his book 

As Thousands Cheer : 

It seemed that Berlin, who had always done everything as 
cheaply as he could, had finally lost control of his finances. 



" Woollcott, "The Music Box Begins to Play," The New York Times 

" 7 Bergreen,_As Thousands Cheer, 178. 


Mistakes on the part of the architect added to the theater's 
expense. Its handsome lobby, for instance, lacked a crucial 
feature: a box office. Once Berlin and Harris discovered the 
oversight, they ordered the contractors to cut into the freshly 
applied plaster and make room for a discreet window.. ..By mid- 
September, the theater was finished, the box office installed. 88 

Existing original drawings for the Music Box exonerate Crane who did indeed 
design the lobby with a box office located on its west side (fig. 31). The last 
revisions for the drawings are dated December 27, 1920. 8 " The story of a 
missing box office is not valid. 

Crane was highly commended for the design of the Music Box, not 
only by the Broadway community, but by architectural critics as well. The 
theater was prominently featured in a five page layout in the February 1, 1922 
issue of The American Architect-The Architectural Review. This proved 
beneficial for Crane's career, for while he would continue to be best known for 
his motion picture theaters, the design of theaters for the legitimate stage 
would continue to be a significant part of his work. 

By this time in his career, Crane's firm was receiving enough 
commissions from out of state that the assistance of other architects was 
necessary. Architect Kenneth Franzheim was one who Crane had come to 
depend upon greatly, as he worked on many of Crane's projects outside of 
Michigan. While he may have taken part in the design of these projects, he 
also may have been hired by Crane simply to provide on-site representation 
at various field offices, while Crane remained in Detroit. Franzheim first 
collaborated with Crane for the design of the Roosevelt Theatre, built in 

88 Bergreen, 178,181. 

"Drawings for the Music Box Theatre, file no. 401, from the collection of C. Howard Crane's 
original drawings, courtesy of Mr. Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, MI. 


Chicago in 1921. While Franzheim had not designed any noteworthy theaters 
prior to his collaboration with Crane, his working relationship with him 
changed the direction of his career, as he went on to be involved with several 
other Crane commissions. 90 These included the World Theatre in Omaha, the 
Earle Theatre in Washington D.C., the James Theatre in Columbus, and the 
Capitol Theatre in Boston, all of which were designed prior to 1925, at which 
time Franzheim established his own firm in New York City. 

In 1922 producer Sam Harris hired Crane once again, but this time for a 
project closer to home. Despite any mistakes that may or may not have taken 
place in the design of the Music Box, Harris evidently remained confident in 
Crane's work. In Chicago, Harris planned on building 'Twin Theatres" with 
Archie and Edgar Selwyn, who also were prominent New York theater 
producers. To be called the Harris and the Selwyn, the two theaters were to 
appear as a single building, its sections virtually identical in style and 
proportion. Kenneth Franzheim joined Crane again for the Harris/Selwyn 

On the corner of Dearborn and Lake Streets, Crane and Franzheim 
designed each theater as a three story, rectangular block, which was connected 
to the other at the rear (fig. 32). The facades of both theaters were "classically 
treated," but the interiors were different. Faced with terra cotta resembling 
stone, each facade has a wide central section with three exit doors on the main 
floor and a triple arched arcade within its upper portion, divided from the 
main floor doors by a string course. In the center of each arch is a pedimented 

'"George S. Koyl, ed., The 1956 American Architects Directory (New York: A.I.A.and the 
R.R. Bowker Co., 1955), 180. Kenneth Franzheim's entry states that Franzheim was a 
draftsman with William Wells Bosworth, N.Y.C, 1913-15; with the firm of C. Howard Crane, 
Chicago, 1920-23; C. Howard Crane, Boston, 1924-25. Kenneth Franzheim, arch., N.Y.C, 1925. 


window, which originally had balustrades. At the north ends of each building 
is one additional exit door and an inset sign board with another upper story 
arch above. Inside each arch is a central pedimented niche containing a statue 
of the Greek muse Terpischore, symbolizing dance. On the south ends of each 
building is the main entrance with an upper story arch above. These also 
have a central pedimented niche, but containing a statue of the Greek muse 
Thalia, who represents comedy. Both theaters originally had matching 
parapets at the roof lines, balustraded above all five upper story arches. 
Above the arches of each facade was a classical entablature, each with the 
theater name incised in the center." The orders of eight Corinthian pilasters 
were arranged differently in relation to the windows and arches on each 
facade. The overall affect was that of two matching, albeit slightly dissimilar 

Each seating approximately 48 more than the 1,010 seat Music Box, the 
Chicago theaters are essentially the same in interior layout as their New York 
predecessor. Like the Music Box, Crane provided each auditorium with one 
balcony and one grandly decorated box on each side of the proscenium (fig. 
33). More elaborately decorated than the Music Box, the interiors of the 
Harris (fig. 34) and the Selwyn were described as a "mastery of traditional 
styles." For Crane's "...classical design vocabulary was never in doubt."' 2 

While the decorative designs for the interiors of these theaters came 
out of Crane's office, credit for their implementation and execution must be 
given to the decorative firms. For the decorating and furnishing of the Music 

" "Harris and Selwyn Theaters," North Loop Redevelopment Project Reliminary Study of 
Information, Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks, June 1979, 3-4. 

"Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy, 61. 


Box, the William Baumgarten & Company was hired. 93 For the Harris and 

Selwyn Theatres, Charles Hunter Bettis was the decorator. 94 To complement 

what was then regarded as the Georgian character of the Selwyn, Bettis 

lavished the theater with hand carved walnut, complimented by gold and 

green silk damask hangings. And for the Italian interior of the Harris, Bettis 

selected carved walnut, touched with gold leaf, and added gold and oxblood 

hangings. 95 

As Crane's theaters became larger and more elaborate, the role of the 

decorator would become increasingly important, especially for the movie 

palaces. As observed by theater historian Ben Hall: 

The movie palace architect's most valuable ally was the 
decorator, for without him the pleasure domes would have been 
as barren as dirigible hangars. All through the planning and 
building stages they worked together to create just the right effect 
of awe mingled with euphoria on the absorbent ids of 
moviegoers. The decorator usually moved in after the structure 
was fairly well completed to deck the hall with boughs of gold 
leaf and all the other trappings that were his stock in trade. 96 

During the same time that Crane was planning concert halls and 
theaters for Broadway producers, he remained busy designing motion picture 
houses of grand scale. In Detroit, Crane's most faithful and ardent client was 
John Kunsky, who had known Crane's work from the early nickelodeon days 
on Monroe Street. By 1920, Kunsky already was monopolizing the business of 

" The Music Box Magazine Theater Program, for the week of August 14, 1922, 16. 

""Chicago /Midwest Conclave, 1986," Marquee: The Journal of The Theatre Historical 
Society (Second Quarter, 1986): 6. Although cited here as "decorator," Bettis is credited as 
being part of Crane's architectural design team, with Kenneth Franzheim, for the Guild 
Theatre in N.Y.C., 1925, in William C. Young, Documents of American Theater History: 
Famous American Playhouses 1900-1971 (Chicago: American Library Assoc., 1973), 65. 

"Ibid., 7. 

"Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 109,112. 


film exhibition in Detroit. Close at his side to help build his large collection 

of resplendent theaters was C. Howard Crane. 

Grand Circus Park (fig. 35), a semicircular area divided by Woodward 

Avenue and from which several other main streets radiate, became the city's 

fashionable shopping district after the turn of the century. 97 It was the logical 

area for John Kunsky to build, and eventually was nick-named "Kunsky 

Circle" as it became surrounded by his great showplaces. 98 The first of 

Kunsky's Grand Circus Park theaters was the Madison, built in 1917. With a 

seating capacity of 1806, in an auditorium that looked similar to Orchestra 

Hall, Crane's grand style of movie palaces "had almost arrived." 99 It was the 

Capitol and State Theatres, however, that truly allowed Crane to make his 

mark as one of the nation's great movie palace architects. 

The broad avenues radiating out from Grand Circus Park were 
soon lined with these palaces, each competing in architectural 
grandeur and in the bewitching of their stage and screen 
offerings. The Capitol Theater (1922) on Broadway and the State 
Theater (1925) on Woodward were the products of C. Howard 
Crane. Their lobbies, resplendent with imported marble 
columns and staircases, served merely as preludes to the glories 
that lay beyond. It was still the day of the silent film. The 
mighty Wurlitzer organs thundered when the hero led the 
Calvary charges and warbled when he won the hands of the 

In his book The Buildings of Detroit, Hawkins Ferry's reminiscences of 
the vibrant activity that took place around Grand Circus Park attest to Crane's 
contribution to the success of this downtown area. The theaters he had 
designed for this district by 1925, all for John Kunsky, were the Madison and 

87 Ferry, The Buildings of Detroit, 323. 

" Morrison, Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace, 18. 


100 Ferry, The Buildings of Detroit, 324. 


Adams, both of 1917, the Capitol of 1922 and the State Theatre in 1925 

Ferry's note about Crane's magnificent lobbies for the Capitol and State 

Theatres was also well deserved. Crane became well known for the lobby 

spaces in his early phase of movie palace designs, those theaters built through 

the mid-1920's. 101 In June of 1925, The Architectural Forum dedicated an 

entire issue to the design of motion picture theaters. The author, an associate 

of the Chicago office of C.W. and George L. Rapp emphasized the importance 

of theater entrances and lobbies. He wrote: 

The people of today's hurly-burly, commercialized world go to 
the theater to live an hour or two in the land of romance. So it 
is that the sophisticated playgoer must be taken up, on the 
architect's magic carpet, and set down suddenly in the celestial 
city of gorgeous stage settings, luxurious hangings and 
enchanting music. The atmosphere of a king's palace must 
prevail to stimulate the imagination of those who come within 
its doors. Yes, even before the patron enters the theater, the 
architect must stress first impressions through one of the most 
important architectural problems, - entrance and lobby appeal. 
The successful theater architect must master the psychology of 
the theater-goer. He must understand the patron's love of 
adventure and be able to excite his spirit of romance. 108 

The concept of capturing the patron's "spirit," the minute he walked in 
the door of the theater,was understood well by Crane. The article featured 
pictures of Crane's Allen Theatre in Cleveland, built in 1921, as one with a 
lobby which was designed successfully for this intent. It was said to be 
"...designed and so well equipped that the fascination resulting from it will 
keep the patron's mind off the fact that he is waiting. 103 To create such an 

"" Naylor, American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy, 60. 
'"Bullock, E.C.A., "Theater Entrances and Lobbies," The Architectural Forum, June, 1925, 

'"Ibid., 372. 


environment, Crane incorporated at the end of the long lobby a rotunda (fig. 
36), surrounded by an open colonnade, as the transitional space leading to the 
the auditorium. The lobby sparkled with opulence from the mirrored walls, 
coffered ceilings and elaborately wrought lighting fixtures, 104 and was further 
accented by the theater's overall scheme of relief and flat painted ornament. 105 
The rotunda itself (fig. 37) was the feature attraction, said to be "...of unusual 
impressiveness, the subdued walnut and dull gold tones of its great 
Corinthian order being most effectively relieved by the rich polychromatic 
decorations of the dome and the sparkle of the central chandelier." 106 

Crane's Capitol Theatre in Detroit, was built shortly after the Allen and 
opened on January 12, 1922. It was the largest of Crane's Detroit theaters at 
that time, seating 3;367 people. Situated between Broadway and Madison 
Avenue, the Broadway side was the facade which was characterized by three 
classically treated divisions with engaged Corinthian columns (fig. 38). Retail 
spaces occupied the central, largest bay and the west bay had an entrance into a 
small lobby containing elevators to the upper story offices. One entered the 
theater at the facade's east bay, which was designated by the Capitol marquee. 
Upon entering the theater, the patron first found himself in a small outer 
lobby containing the ticket booths (fig. 39). Featured was a vaulted ceiling 
with back-lighted stained glass panels, but the most impressive architectural 
treatment of this space was a groin vaulted and marble columned entry 
leading to a set a stairs to the second mezzanine and then to the balcony. 
Those patrons with tickets for the main floor or the mezzanine tier boxes had 
the added privilege of walking through the lobby into a three story foyer 

'"Frary, I.T., "The Allen Theatre," The Architectural Record, November, 1921,359. 

,os Ibid. 367. 

,0 *Ibid. 


containing a grand staircase and two mezzanine bridges (fig. 40), all of which 
were highlighted by balustrades of wrought iron, painted gold with 
alternating coral and turquoise ellipses (fig. 41). The foyer curved around the 
rear of the auditorium and the back wall featured three archways rising the 
full three stories (fig. 42). These were framed by engaged Corinthian columns, 
ornate plaster work accented in gold, turquoise and coral, and painted panels 
containing repeating motifs of cupids, garlands, birds and cameos. Once 
again, Crane successfully created lobby spaces to beguile the patron to the 
point of fantasy, even before he entered the auditorium. 

In contrast to his previous theaters for motion pictures, such as the 
Majestic, seating 1,651 people and designed according to the "bleacher" type 
plan, the theaters Crane designed around Grand Circus Park adapted a new 
sense of special grandeur. All were designed upon variations of the 
traditional legitimate theater plan, which incorporates multiple levels. 
While this change was not necessary for theaters such as the Adams, which 
with 1770 seats was not much larger than the Majestic, and like the Madison 
recalled Orchestra Hall, the change was appropriate for a theater as large as the 
Capitol. To accommodate 3,367 people, Crane included two mezzanine levels 
and a balcony (fig. 43). The first mezzanine, he explained, was treated " a 
tier of special boxes, obtaining a more exclusive and private seating section, 
which is very desirable. These boxes continue under the balcony for the 
whole width of the house." 107 

The ultimate decision of whether or not to incorporate balconies or box 
seating was left to the theater owner, depending on the desired seating 

107 C. Howard Crane, "Observations on Motion Picture Theaters," The Architectural Forum 
June, 1925, 383. 


capacity and the overall effect he desired for the auditorium. Generally every 
architect, based on personal experience, had his own preferred system for 
carrying out the specific elements that the owner requested. 108 In a series of 
articles for Pencil Points on the motion picture theater, Crane's New York 
associate Emil M. Mlinar noted, "Where proscenium boxes are desired by the 
owners they should be carried in with the loge treatment of the balcony. This 
gives a better composition than detached boxes and produces the effect seen in 
theatres where the balcony forms a complete horseshoe. It also brings the the 
boxes to such a height that they do not interfere with the view of the screen 
from seats in the auditorium." 109 

While Crane did incorporate detached boxes in most of his other 
designs, whether the theater was of the bleacher type plan, as in the Majestic, 
or with theaters of the legitimate type plan, ranging from the Music Box in 
New York to the Allen Theatre in Cleveland, Crane came to prefer the 
horseshoe-shaped mezzanine of individually articulated, under the balcony 
and sweeping around the perimeter of the hall. Previous to the Capitol, 
Crane had created this same arrangement of box seating for the 2000 seat 
Orchestra Hall, built in 1919. In that case, six additional projecting mezzanine 
boxes continued around to each of the side walls of the auditorium, stepping 
downward toward the proscenium. In the Capitol, the mezzanine level of 
boxes ended at the side walls, allowing space for a large archway, containing 
the organ grilles above ground level exit doors. In the 1922 Pencil Points 
series, Mr. Mlinar also pointed out to his readers that in the Detroit Capitol: 

...instead of an architectural colonnade, the side walls have been 

'"Ibid., 382. 

""Emil M. Mlinar, "Motion Picture Theatre Data, Part V," Pencil Points, November, 1922, 


treated with silk panels and that the stage box portion and the 
sounding board have been carried out to a greater distance than 
in any of the other theatres. This was done for the purpose of 
bringing the front of the theatre to the people in the balcony as 
much as possible, in this way avoiding the necessity for any 
additional treatment." 

While Crane noted the desirability of the special seating offered to 
those in the mezzanine boxes, he did not want to neglect patrons in the 
balcony. In order for them to feel intimately a part of the auditorium, the 
effort mentioned by Mr. Mlinar, to extend the front of the theater toward the 
balcony was incorporated. Additionally, Crane developed aesthetically 
pleasing approaches to the balcony, so as to keep the patron from feeling that 
he would be separated from or inferior to the rest of the audience, as had been 
the case in nineteenth century theaters. Crane stated, "One very interesting 
point developed in this theater is the run of the stairways. Those, for instance, 
at the second mezzanine level are designed with elliptical terminals, lobbies 
and other interesting points which give the impression that the uppermost 
seats in the balcony are in no way difficult to reach.'"" 

Of course the other privilege offered to those in the balcony was a 
closer view of the auditorium's large domed and coffered ceiling. By this 
time Crane had moved away from the traditionally flat ceiling, as was 
recommended by architectural critics during his early years of motion picture 
theater design." 2 He did continue this practice, however, for the theaters of 
legitimate stage use, as seen in Orchestra Hall, The Music Box, and the Selwyn 

"°Emil M. Mlinar, "Motion Picture Theatre Data, Part IV," Pencil Points, October, 1922, 39. 

'" C. Howard Crane, "Observations on Motion Picture Theaters," The Architectural Forum, 

,u Thomas Nolan, ed., Architecture and Building, May,1911,321. As mentioned previously 
in reference to the Liberty Theatre, 1913. 


and Harris Theatres. In these instances he apparently felt the flat ceiling did 
allow for the best acoustics. But for the motion picture theaters he was 
designing in the early 1920's and afterward, which continued to become 
greater in magnificence as well as in size, the curved and domed ceilings were 
a preferred feature. By this time, the vaudeville acts and orchestral numbers 
were not the focal point of the program, as much as was the film itself, which 
until 1927 was silent. The same acoustical concerns were not important in 
theaters for the exhibition of silent films, which were accompanied by an 
orchestra or a large Wurlitzer organ. With their pipes hidden behind 
ornamented organ grilles at the side walls of the auditorium, "these 
instruments could literally rock the house." 113 This allowed Crane and other 
theater architects to take the liberty of designing the ceiling in whatever 
formation they felt appropriate for the overall decorative scheme. 

The Capitol exhibits a mixture of classical elements drawn from 
various sources. For the auditorium ceiling, Crane chose a system of 
unorthodox coffering,, which formed unusual geometric patterns that were 
arranged within the ceiling's vaulted curves and incorporated octagonal 
lighting coves. The high vaulting of the ceiling, made entirely of plaster, was 
purely a decorative effect and not structural in any way. The process of 
suspending the plaster ceiling was an art in itself, which required metal lath 
to be hung with suspension rods from the roof trusses and then the final 
application of plaster over the metal lath. In the end, not only was an awe 
inspiring ceiling achieved, but plenty of convenient attic space was left 
between the ceiling and the roof. 114 

" 3 Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 40. 

'"Andrew Craig Morrison, architect (Philadelphia, PA), telephone conversation with the 
writer, 30 March, 1992. 


The Capitol Theatre in Detroit was truly a turning point in Crane's 
career. However,it was not ground-breaking in the field of motion picture 
theater design- Equally, if not more impressive, was Thomas Lamb's Capitol 
Theatre in New York City, with an unprecedented seating capacity for over 
5000 people, built in 1919. 115 Also the firm of Rapp and Rapp gave Chicago its 
first taste of what was to come in movie palace design, with the Chicago 
Theatre, seating 3,880 people, built in 1921."' Yet, for Crane the Capitol was 
the largest theater he had planned to date and in architectural design, it 
foreshadowed more than any other theater the shape and appearance Crane's 
future movie palaces would take. 

For three years the Capitol remained the most prominent movie house 

in the Kunsky chain. But on October 29, 1925, Crane's State Theatre, located 

on Woodward Avenue at Grand Circus Park, opened with great fanfare. A 

headline read: 

New Kunsky Show House Largest of All 
$2,000,000 State Theater Opened to Public Last Week 

The article continued, saying that John H. Kunsky had, "added another 
monument to his already lengthy string of palatial theaters dedicated to the 
art of motion picture presentation. ..a stone's throw from Grand Circus Park 
(see fig. 35), and in close proximity to Mr. Kunsky' s Capitol, Adams and 
Madison Theaters." 117 

Crane truly did create a palatial environment in the State Theatre. The 
local papers raved over the massive marble staircase leading to the 
mezzanine (fig. 44), the dazzling colors of blue, gold and touches of pink, and 

" 5 Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 44. 

1.6 Ibid., 47. 

1.7 "New Kunsky Show Place Largest of All," The Detroiter, 2 November 1925, 9. 


the "oriental canopies" on both sides of the house. 118 As might be expected, 
the State was provided with a large single balcony and a mezzanine tier of 
boxes. While its seating capacity of 2967 was less than the Capitol's,, the State 
was much larger in volume than its 1922 predecessor (fig. 45). The State's 
stage was larger than the Capitol's and Crane noted that he added an 
unusually deep orchestra pit, "allowing the orchestra to be concealed while 
the organist is performing, then to be raised to the level of the stage for the 
overture or concert numbers." 1 " Crane again added coffered divisions to the 
auditorium ceiling, as well as to the barrel vaulted ceiling above the 
elaborately decorated inner foyer. 120 

Like the Capitol, the State Theatre was housed within an office 
building (fig. 46). Named the Palms Building, it had retail spaces at the 
ground level and it rose twelve stories, twice the height of the Capitol, with 
office spaces occupying the upper nine floors. Theater historian David Naylor 
has made the observation that "aside from the skyscraper, no building type is 
more clearly representative of twentieth-century American architecture than 
the movie palace." 121 If one agrees with this remark, there is an irony that by 
the early 1920's most of the movie palace architects were often commissioned 
to design very tall buildings to accompany the theaters or to house them 
entirely. Their ability to amalgamate both building types has often gone 

After the Palms Office Building and State Theatre in 1925, Crane 
designed the 55-story American Insurance Union Citadel building in 1926 in 


"• Crane, "Observations on Motion Picture Theaters," The Architectural Forum, 384. 


Naylor, Great American Movie Theaters, 149. 
Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 32. 


Columbus, Ohio (fig. 47). Claimed to be "one of the world's highest and most 
picturesque buildings," 122 it housed the RKO Palace Theatre, designed by 
Thomas Lamb. One suspects that the owners of the insurance building, who 
hired Crane to design their skyscraper, must have decided that they wanted to 
have the building house a motion picture theater, assuming that it could 
prove profitable with the right tenant. RKO Pictures, along with MGM, 
Paramount, Fox and Warner Brothers, was one of the five major motion 
picture studios that by 1925, was steadily amassing its own chain of theaters in 
order to control the distribution and exhibition of their films. 123 Evidently, 
when RKO became the tenant for the theater space in the American 
Insurance Union Citadel, they insisted upon having it designed by Thomas 
Lamb, who had become the primary architect for the RKO theater chain. This 
allowed for the first collaboration between Crane and Thomas Lamb, the 
"dean of the standard school," in motion picture theater design. 124 Lamb 
designed the interior of the Palace in his standard Adamesque style. The 
extent of Crane and Lamb's working relationship on this project is not clear, 
but it seems plausible that Crane would provided the architectural enclosure 
of the theater, at which point Lamb would have taken over the rest. Lamb's 
classically treated interior of the Palace Theatre must have proved to have 
been a startling contrast to Crane's conservatively modern exterior. 125 

While Crane and Thomas Lamb did not collaborate on any other 

122 Reproductions of Work Designed and Executed thru The Offices of C. Howard Crane, 
Architect, Elmer George Kiehler, Ben A. Dore, Associates (Columbus, Ohio: Pub. by Denny A. 
Clark, 1929), 15. A I U Citadel featured in advertisement for Masterbuilt Floors: Hardened 
Dust-proof Concrete. 

m Roddick, A New Deal in Entertainment, 10. 

124 Hall, Best Remaining Seats, 95. 

125 Naylor, Great American Movie Theaters, 172. 


projects, they would both design great movie palaces for William Fox. As the 
late 1920's brought about the fully developed movie palace, built nationwide 
by the big motion picture studios, Crane and Lamb would remain constantly 
aware of one another's work, as well as that of John Eberson's. For while 
Thomas Lamb maintained the position as the most sought after theater 
architect of the period, C. Howard Crane and John Eberson were "following 
on his heels." Later it would be evident that together, "the work of these 
three architects characterized the whole movement towards luxury and 
elegance in movie palace architecture." 126 

m Dennis Sharp, The Movie Palace: and Other Buildings for the Movies (New York: 
Frederick A. Praeger, Pub., 1969), 74. 


Chapter Three 
Later Years of Fantasy: The Big Studio Commissions 

The architecture of the great movie palace era was not only one of 

luxury and elegance, but of historic stylism gone wild. Theater historian Ben 

Hall comically explained this phenomenon best when he said: 

The United States in the Twenties was dotted with a thousand 
Xanadus. Decreed by some local (or chain owning) Kubla Khan, 
these pleasure domes gave expression to the most secret and 
polychrome dreams of a whole group of architects who might 
otherwise have gone through life doomed to turning out 
churches, hotels, banks and high schools. The architecture of the 
movie palace was a triumph of suppressed desire and its 
practitioners ranged in style from the purely classic to a wildly 
abandoned eclectic that could only have come from men who, 
like the Khan himself, 'on honeydew had fed, and drunk the 
milk of Paradise.' 1Z7 

Important changes in the motion picture making industry directly 
influenced stylistic changes in motion picture theaters. By the late 1920's the 
major Hollywood studios had already embarked upon the acquisition and 
construction of proprietary movie houses, providing the studios with 
complete control over not only production, but distribution and exhibition as 
well. 128 Under the patronage of the studio chains theater architecture changed 
from traditional to more exotic modes. ,2<> The movie studios' decision to 
commission architects who would create even more exotic theaters reflected 
what they interpreted to be the public's changing taste. As explained by 
theater historian David Naylor: 


Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 93. 
Roddick, A New Deal in Entertainment, 10. 
Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 109. 


Even in the early twenties there was a growing boredom with 
Old World styles. The country was changing fast-the postwar 
boom, the jazz age, flappers, prohibition-and its tastes changed 
just as fast. Americans wanted to live glamorous lives, and the 
movies began to reflect their desires. The time was ripe for the 
palace architects to throw away the old molds and join the spirit 
of the age. 130 

Naylor also suggests that events such as the historic discovery of King 
Tutankhamen's tomb in 1922 had influence on America's changing taste and 
consequent hunger for exotic cultures. This was evidenced by the numerous 
theaters that began to be built using Egyptian, Central American and Far 
Eastern cultures as stylistic models. 131 Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre, built 
in 1927 in Hollywood, remains one of the most flamboyant adaptations of a 
far off land. Of course the studios' main purpose for exploiting these exotic 
cultures in the design of their movie palaces, as well as in the movies 
themselves, was "...purely economic in nature; to draw patrons to the box 
office." 132 The studios' essential concept for how to make a profit never 
changed, only did the stylistic approach. 

Another change in the industry came with the advent in 1927 of 
sound, which meant that the studios had to invest additional funds in the 
equipment for the presentation of "talkies." 133 At the same time, architects 
had to work with acoustical engineers in order to assure that their designs 
would suit the new technology. The incorporation of the Vitaphone and the 
Movietone systems, and their varied speaker systems was entirely new for the 

130 Ibid., 67. 
•" Ibid., 83. 
'"Ibid., 32. 
'"Roddick, A New Deal in Entertainment, 10. 


theater architect. For the sound to reach out uniformly over the 
auditorium, a 1928 news article stated, "such close mathematical figuring has 
never before been so necessary in theater construction. Size, shape and 
materials always have to be taken minutely into consideration in planning 
acoustical treatment." 135 

The immediate and universal acceptance of sound systems for the new 
talkies had little effect on theaters' production facilities. The fully developed 
movie palaces were still planned with complete stages and great pipe organs. 
Studios were hesitant to eliminate the live parts of their programs, fearing 
that sound films might be a fad. Adolph Zukor decided that his Paramount- 
Publix Theatre empire could pace their sound installations over a five year 
span. The Publix stage-show circuit was still very popular, as were the stage 
shows and orchestral numbers accompanying most of the studios films. 136 

In 1918 Mary Pickford, the most famous screen star of the silent era, left 
Adolph Zukor and Paramount Pictures to form her own independent 
company. 137 In 1919, Pickford saw one of her "dearest dreams fulfilled-the 
formation of United Artists." 138 Attracted by the concept of an artist as an 
independent producer, with the ability to distribute one's own films more 
efficiently, became a tempting venture for many other film stars. Joining 
Pickford and together constituting the original members of United Artists 
were Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin, and D.W. Griffith. 139 

134 Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 247,251. 

'""Acoustics of Detroit's Fox Prove Its Suitability For Sound Movies," The Detroit Free 
Press, 22 July 1928. 

'"Hall, 250. 

'"Mary Pickford, Sunshine and Shadow (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1955), 

'"Ibid., 115. 

'"Ibid., 136. 


As her former boss Adolph Zukor joined the ranks of other studio 
moguls by acquiring and building theaters to create their own chains, 
Pickford, too, realized that United Artists "...could survive only by 
continually modernizing [its] setup," 140 including the plan to create its own 
chain of key theaters across the country. Joseph Schenk, hired by Pickford to 
manage United Artists, brought in producer Samuel Goldwyn in order to 
help this "small-time distribution company without dibs on a single major 
first-run theater in the country." With the teaming of Goldwyn, who in 1924 
had left Metro Goldwyn Mayer, the company he had co-founded and which 
still retained his name, Pickford, Fairbanks and Schenck created the United 
Artists Theatre Circuit, Inc. 141 C. Howard Crane became their principal 

By 1927, the individual studios had established ongoing relationships 
with their favorite architects. Both RKO Pictures and Loew's Inc., which was 
the parent company of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures, chose Thomas Lamb 
as their principal designer. 142 The Paramount-Publix chain, incorporating 
Famous Players-Lasky Corp., under the reigns of Adolph Zukor, primarily 
retained the services of Chicago's firm of Rapp & Rapp. 143 Crane worked as 
principal architect for both United Artists and for Fox Film Corp. 
Following the manner of their respective architect, each studio adopted its 
own stylistic look. Starting with his United Artists commissions, Crane's best 
theaters are considered to be those of this later period, which was stylistically 

140 Ibid., 143. 

'" A. Scott Berg, Godwyn (New York: Alfred A. Knoff, 1989), 162. 

'"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 44. 

'"Ibid., 60. 


quite different from his "earlier classical output." 144 Crane was commissioned 

to design three theaters for United Artists, one in Los Angeles, one in Chicago 

and one in Detroit. The same stylistic theme was chosen for all three of the 

theaters, Crane's uniquely unorthodox adaption of Spanish Gothicism. It is 

today often said that Mary Pickford herself selected Crane as the architect, as 

well as the ornate Spanish Gothic design based on her fascination with 

European castles.' 45 How true either of these statements may be cannot be 

known. However, it is evident that the Los Angeles United Artists Theatre 

was Pickford's personal favorite and that she was personally involved with 

the project throughout. Some of her involvements included turning the first 

shovelful of earth commencing construction, having Crane design a private 

screening room below the auditorium for her own use, insuring herself a 

focal spot in one of the two giant auditorium murals depicting the 

achievements of the motion picture industry (fig. 48), and of course giving 

the final word of approval after inspecting the completed theater. 146 

The 2,214-seat United Artists Theatre, the studio's flagship house, was 

built in 1927 at 929 South Broadway in downtown Los Angeles' thriving 

theater district. 147 A preview description before its cited opening date of 

December 26th stated: 

Done entirely in Spanish Gothic style, the big house has been 
declared by art critics to be the most perfect achievement of its 
kind in the country. The notable combination of massiveness 
and delicacy that is a feature of the old Spanish cathedrals has 

'"Ibid., 114. 

145 "The United Artists Theater, Los Angeles, California," American Movie Classics, 
September, 1989, 2. 

'" "Southland's Finest Theater Completed" Los AngelesSalurday Night, 10 December 1927, 

'"Paul Gleye, The Architecture of Los Angeles (Los Angeles: The Knapp Press, 1981), 104. 


been retained in the gorgeous treatment of the entire theater. 14 * 

While it may be debatable whether Crane's United Artists actually received 
rave reviews from art critics, the combination of massiveness and delicacy in 
its interior was truly achieved (figs. 49-50). Patrons in the auditorium were 
surrounded by soaring Gothic arches and half circular fan vaults made of 
plaster, in imitation of the lace-like stone work typical of sixteenth century 
Spain. It is believed that Crane may have copied details from the Cathedral 
at Segovia for much of the plaster decoration. 149 But despite Crane's historic 
source of inspiration, everything was given the added touch of Hollywood 
drippings (fig. 51). David Naylor has described the decorative treatment 
above the organ screens and at the proscenium opening as resembling 
"stalactites," giving the overall effect of a "cave-Gothic interior." 150 

Gold-painted Gothic elements were also to be found in the three- story 
grand lobby, in which Crane recalled the nave of a Spanish cathedral, with the 
addition of frescoes decorating the groin vaults (fig. 52). Overlooking the 
lobby were two double-decked bridges connecting the two stairways leading to 
the mezzanine and balcony (fig. 53). Stairways from the lobby also led to the 
basement level, where the added accommodations of the fully developed 
movie palace often were. The stairway at the east, or Broadway side of the 
lobby, led to an elegant smoking room and Mary Pickford's screening room. 
The stairway at the west end led to the ladies rest room and a nursery, where 
one could conveniently leave children while attending a show. 

While many rooms and spaces of the United Artists were regarded as 

1 "Southland's Finest Theater Completed," Los AngelesSaturday Night, 2. 

' "The United Artists Theater, Los Angeles, California," American Movie Classics, 2. 

'Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 114,116. 


breath-taking, the most remarked upon highlight was the illuminated gold 

and silver ceiling dome in the auditorium (fig. 54). Lacking Gothic precedent, 

Crane included it for the effect of pure glitz. Described in 1927,: 

The dome of the auditorium culminates in a huge sunburst, 
worked out in rich metallic gold and silver colors, through 
which a luminous blue background glows through to represent a 
summer sky. 15 ' 

The facade of the theater was designed by Crane as part of a 12- story 
office frontage designed by the Los Angeles architectural firm of Walker & 
Eisen (fig. 55). In this case, Crane found himself in a collaborative 
arrangement not unlike the American Insurance Union Citadel building that 
housed the RKO Palace Theatre in Columbus, but this time with the situation 
reversed. The partnership between United Artists and Texaco for the 
occupancy of the building obviously allowed for each company to hire its own 
architect. Crane may, however, have had some influence over Walker & 
Eisen's design, as the Gothic tracery of the theater facade climbs the building's 
exterior to form a crown of arches and soaring spires. The terra cotta facade 
also displayed alternating sets of arched and pinnacled Gothic windows with 
enshrined statuary between them and, as the focal point, a large Gothic 
window over the theater's marquee (fig. 56). A theater facade, especially 
when part of a larger office building, had to be eye-grabbing in order to attract 
the attention of the potential patron passing by. Therefore, "while rarely as 
opulent or exotic as the interiors, the facades were still quite distinct from the 
surrounding cityscape." 152 Crane followed this criterion in the decorative 
treatment of the United Artists facade, with its usual canopy and vertical 

151 "Southland's Finest Theater Completed," Los AngelesSaturday Night, 2. 
'"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 32. 



By 1927, the time of the United Artists' completion, the combination of 

motion picture palace and tall office building was not unusual. A 1926 article 

reflecting on the progress of motion picture theater architecture stated: 

In metropolitan cities palatial picture houses and sky scrapers 
which are the crowning glory of mighty theatres below had a 
prominent place on the main thoroughfares of the leading cities 
of America. ..Everywhere the motion picture theatre has by this 
time become a potent factor in the architectural development of 
communities. ..All the arts - painting, music, sculpture and 
architecture - combine to complete their beauty. .Understand 
why patrons visit the motion picture theatre and you 
understand why architects plan as they do. People come to the 
motion picture theatre to live an hour or two in the land of 
romance. It is "their" theatre. m 

The United Artists Theatre, at 140 Bagley Avenue in Detroit, 
contributed to the ever increasing inventory of theaters around Grand Circus 
Park (see fig. 35). Opened on February 3rd, 1928, it too was housed within an 
office building, in this case designed by Crane (fig. 57). Not quite as ornate as 
the United Artists in Los Angeles, the building rose eighteen stories. It was 
faced in orange brick over a 2-story stone base distinguished by a two story 
arcade of windows and entrances ways. The top was lined with a row of 
round-headed windows. Overall, it was designed in the conventional 
scheme of a skyscraper, incorporating a base, in these cases distinguished by 
two story arched windows; a shaft, marked with repetitive office windows; 
and a crown or capitol, integrating two or three more floors of offices with 
small windows and topped by a decorative cornice. The entrance on the 
facade's left end led to the office lobby, while the entrance to the right, marked 

'"John F. Barry, "The Motion Picture Theatre," Paramount Pep Club Year Book for 1926, 
quoted in 'Times Square Paramount," The Theatre Historical Society Annual, no. 3 (1976): 3. 


by a broad canopy marquee and a seven story vertical sign, led to the lobby of 
the theater. 

Across the street the United Artists Building was the Michigan Theatre, 
designed by Rapp and Rapp in 1926 for the Paramount-Publix chain, and 
which had a spectacularly soaring ten-story vertical sign clearly visible from 
Grand Circus Park. Although the United Artists sign was slimmer and more 
modest, Crane undoubtedly wanted his United Artists to be distinguished 
from its next door neighbor. However, the final United Artists design was no 
match for Rapp and Rapp's Michigan Theatre. In examining the Michigan 
Theatre it has been said that "in its combination of extravagant lavishness 
and the lightness of the Rapp & Rapp 'touch/ this theatre presents an 
architectural counterpoint to the equally elegant but often more ponderous 
style of the Crane office." 154 

After entering the United Artists and purchasing a ticket in the 
rectangular outer lobby, the patron entered the grand lobby through one of 
two large archways. This central lobby reflected Crane's ability to create 
unique lobby spaces. Its circular plan resolved the awkwardly angular 
transition between the Bagley Street entrance and the unusual axis of the egg- 
shaped auditorium, an angle dictated by Grand Circus Park's unique radial 
street plan (fig. 58). Once in this rotunda, one was surrounded by eight two- 
story arched bays, all of which had pierced gold balconies and overhanging 
canopies. Only two of the bay's balconies were accessible as look-out points 
from the mezzanine foyer; the rest had smoky mirrors behind them. Six of 
the eight bays were access ways, two to the outer lobby, two to the mezzanine 
and lobby stairs, and two to the auditorium foyer. The remaining two bays 

' Morrison, Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace, 19. 


were blank and led nowhere, incorporated only to complete the lobby's 
symmetrical scheme. 

The Detroit United Artists auditorium (fig. 59), seating 2,070, displayed 
the same heavy drippings of Spanish Gothic decoration as the Los Angeles 
theater. It too featured a gilded dome, lace-like fan vaults and massive 
ornamental canopies over the proscenium and organ screens. 155 The only 
features that distinguished the Detroit auditorium from its Los Angeles 
predecessor were with the addition of "a few Indian maidens," and a 
lessening of the stalactite clustering. 156 The overall appearance of the two 
auditoriums was quite the same; Crane even had the same plaster molds that 
were used in Los Angeles used again to create the interior ornament in 
Detroit. Both Crane and Thomas Lamb proved most successfully that they 
"...learned the economy of duplication." 157 The studios responded favorably to 
this practice, since it gave their theater chains a distinctive and memorable 
stylistic identity, as well as cutting down on building expenses. 

In 1928, while Lamb was designing a series of Loew's theaters 
characterized by a "Mexican Baroque" style, 158 Crane continued in full force 
with the United Artists' "Spanish Gothic" theme. Simultaneously with 
Detroit's, the Chicago United Artists Theatre opened at 45 West Randolph 
Street. It too displayed Spanish Gothic ornament, with the same pierced 
plaster work for fan vaulting and canopies over the proscenium and organ 
screens (fig. 60). The auditorium also had side murals, in this case depicting a 
Moorish procession; and he added spiral columns at the proscenium's sides, 

'"Ibid., 27. 

'"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 116. 

'"Ibid., 122. 



with of course the ever imposing gilded dome. Added touches of Moorish 
inspiration extended into the lobby, which had black marble columns and a 
coffered, gilded and polychromed ceiling. 159 

The Chicago United Artists was created within the envelope of an 
earlier theater, the Apollo, built in 1921 by the well known Chicago 
architecture firm of Holabird and Roche (fig. 61). To purchase and remodel 
the interior of an extent theater was probably considered to be a convenient 
cost cutting device on the part of United Artists. Still considered a company 
slowly making its mark, Pickford, Fairbanks, Schenck and Goldwyn all 
realized that their United Artists Theatre Circuit could never compete against 
their larger rivals such as Zukor's Paramount-Publix chain and Loew's Inc. 
The result was, as advised by Goldwyn, that they needed to be very cost 
conscious. One way of doing this was to form partnerships with some of their 
competitors, such as Loew's, by buying interest in some of their theaters and 
therefore not having to build a house of their own in that particular city. 160 
Goldwyn may also have known where there was the opportunity existed to 
purchase and rehabilitate an already existing theater in a city where United 
Artists definitely wanted their own house. 

In Chicago, Holabird and Roche's classically detailed exterior, with its 
Corinthian colonnades, was left completely intact. The only additions to the 
facade were the canopy and vertical United Artists sign. The original 
classicizing interior was torn out. Structural changes included cutting back 
the stage to a depth of only six feet, allowing the auditorium to be expanded 
into the original stage volume. While the seating capacity of 1,750 remained 

' Naylor, Great American Movie Theaters, 132. 
' Berg, Goldwyn, 162. 


essentially the same, this did allow for larger seats and a roomier 
environment. The original mezzanine was supported by large pillars that 
formed a colonnade in the lobby. But as the new plan called for a larger lobby, 
Crane designed a new suspended mezzanine.' 61 

According to the his office's project inventory book, Crane was also 
commissioned to remodel two other theaters for the United Artists chain. 
They were listed as the United Artists, New York - Globe Theatre, #601 and 
the United Artists, Kansas City - Alteration,.#606. As the United Artists 
Theatre in Chicago was listed as project #626, the New York and Kansas City 
jobs were previous to it. However, there is no record of these plans ever 
having been executed. The Globe, a legitimate theater designed in 1910 by the 
firm of Carrere and Hastings, was eventually converted to a movie house in 
1932. 162 But there is no record of that it was done by Crane or for the United 
Artists Theatre Circuit. 

By the time of the big movie studio commissions, Crane's architectural 

firm was well established. The 1926-1927 Detroit city directory listing for 

Crane read: 

Crane, C. Howard, architect 

Elmer George Kiehler and Benjamin A. Dore Associates 

4th floor, Huron Building. 542 Griswold 

h. 8162 E. Jefferson Avenue. 

Crane's home address, of 8162 East Jefferson Avenue, verified his status. The 
address was that of the Detroit Towers, built in 1926, in the prominent 
neighborhood of Indian Village. A promotional brochure for the eighteen- 

'" All information on the Apollo and Chicago United Artists Thearres,demolished in 1990, 
courtesy of the Theatre Historical Society, Elmhust, Illinois. 

m Mary C. Henderson, The City & the Theatre: New York Playhouses from Bowling Green 
to Times Square (Clifton, NJ: James T. White & Co., 1971), 251. 


story building, designed in an "early Italian period," stated that it was "located 

in the heart of Indian Village. Twenty minutes from Grand Circus Park. The 

charm of an ideal home without responsibility" 163 Ironically, this tower 

whose golden turret still overlooks the Detroit River and Belle Isle was 

designed by one of Crane's fellow movie palace architects, Walter W. 

Ahlschlager. Ahlschlager, whose firm was located in Chicago, was best 

known for his 1927 design of the 5,920 seat Roxy Theatre in New York, built 

for the great film exhibitor Samuel "Roxy" Rothapfel, and one of the most 

awe-inspiring motion picture theaters of all time. Ben Hall humorously 

called Ahlschlager's Gothic /Moorish/ Renaissance, bronze and gold coated 

Roxy, "the climax of twenty years of evolution in one of the richest and most 

imaginative and transitory schools of architecture since the discovery of the 

keystone." 164 

While Ahlschlager must have stunned most of the movie industry 

with his mind-boggling Roxy Theatre, William Fox had his eye on the recent 

works of C Howard Crane. A 1928 Detroit News article explained Fox's 

eventual hiring of Crane with the following story: 

In due course of time Crane presented himself to William Fox. 
Fox told Crane he had an architect and wasn't interested. Then 
Crane had many opportunities to play golf with the picture king. 
Never once did Crane mention his ambitions as an architect. He 
was much more concerned with his brassie shot or a long putt, 
but in the meantime Crane mailed several samples of his 
achievements and notices of his work to Fox. 

Finally, three years later, when they were playing golf 
together and had reached the eleventh hole on the Engineer's 
Course, Fox said point blank to Crane, "How would you like to 
do some work for me?" 

Naturally there was no hesitancy on the part of the 

m "Detroit Towers: Eighty One Sixty Two Jefferson East," promotional advertisement, 
source unknown. 

'"Hall, The Best Remaining Seats, 121. 


Detroiter and he is now busy designing and directing millions of 
dollars worth of theaters.' 65 

While William Fox may have been a frequent golfer at the Engineers Course, 
a golf course for the elite set of Long Island's North shore during the 1920's, 
the extent of Crane's golfing relationship and accompaniment of Fox on such 
outings is questionable. But a persistence on Crane's behalf to expose his 
work to Fox, in hopes of acquiring future commissions, is likely to be be true. 
According to Crane's granddaughter Kitty Gushee, Crane "loved the glitzy 
life, and its not surprising that he would have been attracted to Hollywood 
types and have gone after these bids." 166 Perhaps due to the great success of 
Crane's Los Angeles United Artists, Fox finally had confidence that Crane was 
the architect who could help him continue to build his vast empire of first- 
run motion picture palaces for Fox Film Corporation. 

Crane's first Fox theater opened on August 31, 1928 in Brooklyn, New 
York and was part of Fox's ever expanding empire. A November 3, 1928 
article in the Magazine of Wall Street reported: 

Fox Theatres Corp. now controls more than than 325 individual 
theatres and is considering the acquisition of an additional 150 to 
200 theatres in the Greater New York area. These additional 
theatres and the greater output of feature films will add 
substantially to the income of Fox Film Corp." 7 

But William Fox's bigger plan was to have huge picture palaces "on a 
nationwide scale" all with a seating capacity of more than 3,900. Besides 

'"Buda Baker, "Crane Evolves the Modern Movie Theater," The Detroit News, 4 March 

'"Mary Catherine "Kitty" Crane Gushee, interview with writer, Grosse Pointe, ML, 10 
March 1992. 

167 H. W. Knodel, "Position and Outlook for Four Leading Moving Picture Companies," Th e 
Magazine of Wall Street, Nov. 3, 1928, 70. 


Brooklyn, the key cities chosen for this expansion were Detroit, St. Louis, San 

Francisco, Atlanta 168 and Philadelphia. Crane was given the commissions for 

all but of these theaters except for San Francisco. 16 '' The San Francisco Fox was 

designed by Thomas Lamb, who had done a considerable amount of previous 

work for The Fox Film Corporation. The Atlanta Fox, although Crane did 

some initial designs, 170 was completed by the firm of Mayre, Alger & Vinour. 171 

The Detroit Times on February 17, 1928 stated: 

Architect Confers 

C. Howard Crane, architect for the Fox Theater here, was en 
route to Atlanta, Ga., today to confer with William Fox, owner of 
a chain of movie theaters throughout the country, about the 
building of a theater in Atlanta. 172 

Although Crane designed initial plans for the Atlanta Fox, it may be that the 
final decision to hire Mayre, Alger & Vinour was decided upon by the local 
Shriners club, who had a partnership with William Fox since the theater 
complex was to contain their lodge hall. 173 However it is possible that Fox 
continued to seek consultation from Crane in regards to Mayre, Alger & 
Vinour's estimates and designs. The practice of seeking consultation from 
one architect regarding the work of another was part of Fox's economic 
planning process, and meanwhile Crane's own work was being evaluated by 
Thomas Lamb (Appendix 4). 

'"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 127. 

'"Project numbers are given for Fox theaters in Brooklyn, Detroit, St. Louis, Philadelphia 
and Atlanta, in the Crane office project inventory book. Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, 
Clarkston, MI. 

,70 The Crane office project inventory book lists: Fox Theater, Atlanta, GA. Yaarab Temple, 

171 Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 219. 

'""Architect Confers," The Detroit Times, Friday, 17 February 1928. 

175 Naylor, Great American Movie Theaters, 101. 


In the minutes of a March 24 and 25, 1927, meeting held at the office of 

William Fox, are several references to recommendations given to Fox by Emil 

Mlinar. At the time, Mlinar worked for Thomas Lamb, although he had also 

worked for Crane during an earlier part of his career. In one instance, the 

original February, 1927 budget for the Brooklyn Fox, of $2,769,240.42, was 

reduced to a revised budget of $2,281,351.78 in March of 1927. The minutes 


This change in price was brought about through Addenda "A" 
which everyone considered, including Mr. Mlinar of Mr. 
Thomas W. Lamb's office, established the extent of the savings 
which could be made on this job.' 74 

Another consultation reference, for the Detroit and St. Louis theaters, is made 

not to cost, but instead to design. It states: 

The question of the stepping of the floors and the slope at each 
end seat at aisles, which was raised by Mr. Mlinar of Lamb's 
Office, was left entirely to the decision of Mr. Crane. 175 

After endless budget meetings during 1927 between Fox, Crane and his 
associates, contractors and consultants, plans for the Brooklyn, Detroit, St. 
Louis and Philadelphia theaters were finally approved (fig. 62). The Brooklyn 
Fox was the first of Crane's three Fox theaters that actually materialized. Even 
though the Depression ultimately prevented the construction of the 
Philadelphia Fox (fig. 63), which planned to seat over 6,000 people and would 
have been the largest of Fox's chain, Crane did have the satisfaction of seeing 
his Brooklyn, Detroit and St. Louis Foxes built. 

The Brooklyn Fox, opened on August 31, 1928, was located at 20 

'"Minutes of the meeting, Office of William Fox, New York City, March 24,25 1927, p.3. 
Courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, MI. 
'"Ibid., p.7. 


Flatbush Avenue, on a triangular lot that dictated the building's tripartite 
design (fig. 64). The theater entrance, on Flatbush, close to the corner of 
Nevins Street, was flanked on both sides by store fronts (fig. 65). There were 
store fronts also on the Nevins Street side, and offices above in the twelve- 
story building. The building's triangular shape was what made it most 
visually appealing, otherwise its exterior was "typical commercial high-rise 
architecture of its period with a few added touches of Art Deco ornament." 176 

The decoration of Crane's Brooklyn Fox displayed his eclectic style at its 
best. The interior was a culmination incorporating many of Crane's favorite 
features which he had used in other successful theater designs. These 
included rounded spaces, such as the semi-elliptical vestibule, the four story 
grand lobby which curved along the contour of the rear of the auditorium, 
and narrow curving passages on the mezzanine and balcony levels which 
overlooked the grand lobby 177 The auditorium ceiling, as in the United 
Artists theaters, had a gigantic triple cove dome with concealed lighting 
which highlighted the overall golden tone of the auditorium (figs. 66-67). 1 

A November, 1928 Architecture and Building's description of the 
theater's interior revealed borrowings from various cultures. It read: 

the grand foyer.. .with a height of nearly 50 feet has a grand 
staircase leading to the mezzanine promenade. The decoration 
is oriental and rich in elaboration. The lower walls are verde- 
antique marble with teak wood panels carved and overlaid with 
a decoration of metallic lacquer.. .The auditorium. ..color scheme 
is gold in changing shades varying from bronze to red and 
yellow. The velvet drapes are henna. The other public rooms, 
such as the smoking room and lounge, are decorated in various 
styles. The smoking room is Spanish and the ladies' room is in 


" 6 "The Brooklyn Fox Theatre," The Theatre Historical Society Annual, no. 9 (1982), 10. 

'"Ibid., 16. 

,7, Ibid.,38. 


French style." 9 

Most of the decorative elements in the theater were related to a 
Chinese/Venetian aquatic theme. Amidst Chinese pagodas and murals 
depicting Venetian scenes with gondolas, plaster ornament took marine 
forms of shells, fish, dolphins and waves. Free-standing sculptures displayed 
various fish types, and fish were part of the brass railing designs as well. A 
fountain, with a cascade flowing into a basin, was mounted at the landing of 
the grand stairs, and Art Deco pedestal lights at the newels resembled organ 
pipes rising from pools of water (fig. 68). Kenneth Franzheim, whose New 
York office was working with Crane may have contributed to the theater's Art 
Deco elements. In a catalog of his own work, many of the buildings that he 
designed after his years with Crane were of Art Deco and Moderne styling. 180 
All of this mixed with the Chinese /Venetian aquatic theme with additional 
layers of Italian Renaissance, Baroque and Byzantine detailing must have 
been an incredible sight to see. It has been said that C. Howard Crane and 
Associates by this time had a large staff, possibly numbering close to 50 
draftsmen, and its obvious that Crane allowed them all to contribute to the 
theater's rich eclecticism. 181 

On September 21, 1928 Crane's Fox Theatre (fig. 69), in his home city of 
Detroit, opened to great fanfare. Throughout its months of construction, the 
press regularly wrote of its progress. Numerous headlines featured the 
excitement over its gradual development, "Fox Theater Develops Hindu 

'""Fox Theatre, Brooklyn, N.Y," Architecture and Building, November, 1928,339. 
"""Kenneth Franzheim, Architect: New York-Washington-Houston," (New York: 
Architectural Catalog Col, Inc.) year not printed. 

'" "The Brooklyn Fox Theatre," The Theatre Historical Society Annual, 5. 


Motif," "Toltec Architecture of Maya Period Source of Inspiration For New 

Fox," "Fox Building Is Different/' "Indian Plaster Art Gains Followers," 

"Interior Work on New Fox Cinema Almost Finished." Headlines continued 

to be printed revealing the public's anxious anticipation of the theater's 

completion (fig. 70-71). "400 Rush Work on New Fox," "New Theater Taking 

Shape," 'Theater Nears Completion," "Fox Theater Soon Ready," and finally 

"Fox Theater Opens Friday!" 182 

The day after the Fox's opening, The Detroit Free Press headline read 

"Fox Opening Is Brilliant," and reported: 

Built on mammoth proportions the theater is original and 
artistic and is said to be unique in the large theaters of the 
country for its beauty of line, graceful design and colorful 
decorations. Jade green and vermillion, with gold, silver and 
bronze, have been lavishly yet discreetly used, flashing jewels 
giving an opulent grandeur to the whole. In walls and ceiling 
are the figures and symbols to be found in old Hindu temples. 
Detroit's pride in the magnificence of the new theater has a 
certain interesting note in the fact that a Detroit architect, C. 
Howard Crane, and his associates, were responsible for the entire 
Fox building. 185 

According to Ben Hall, however, all the Fox theaters received the additional 
supervision of William Fox's wife Eve Leo, who took part in deciding what 
final decorative schemes were to be used. He stated, "when the Fox theatres 
in St. Louis and Detroit were being built, Mrs. Fox commuted between New 
York and the other two cities to carry on her work of patrolling suppliers." 184 
Detroit newspapers reported Mrs. Fox's periodic stops to the city in order to 
check on things. Two headlines read, "Fox Decorations Supervised by Wife of 

News clippings from the DetToit News and Detroit Free Press from the Crane office scrap 
book, courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, MI. 

"Fox Opening Is Brilliant," The Detroit Free Press, 22 September 1928. 
Hall,77ie Best Remaining Seats, 112. 


1»3 "I 

Owner," and "Mrs. Fox Pleased With New Theater." 185 However, how much 
final say Mrs. Fox actually had on these projects, with Crane's or any of the 
other Fox architects' own decorators and suppliers, is debatable. For the 
Detroit Fox Theatre, Crane used companies that he had used previously on 
other projects and they would have been more likely to report to Crane on 
final matters than to Mrs. Fox. For example, for the lathing, plastering and 
ornamental plaster work, Crane hired the Lennox-Haldeman Company, 
which also worked on the Detroit United Artists. Another company Crane 
retained the services of was the FE. Gates Marble and Tile Company of 
Indianapolis, which also did the marble work for Crane's Olympia Sports 
Arena built in Detroit in 1927 (Appendix 2). 186 

The overall style of the Detroit Fox's interior, as well as its identical 
twin in St. Louis, was labeled by Ben Hall as "Siamese-Byzantine." 187 The 
auditorium had a height equivalent to an eight story building and seated 
5,048 people (fig. 72). Its side walls were linked with mezzanine promenades 
which stretched behind gigantic red marble colonnades. Behind these were 
full length blue and gold mirrors reflecting hanging jeweled lanterns. Every 
arch, cove, and niche was covered with decorative plaster and paint, and the 
colors were of glowing reds, golds, and bronzes. Other decorative elements 
included a 13 foot diameter globe chandelier that was made of jeweled glass 
and hung from the center of the dome-shaped ceiling, which resembled a 
two-tiered tapestry tent. All niches and alcoves contained deities, lions, 
dragons and other imaginary creatures from the Far East. Atop the highly 

Crane office scrap book, courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect. 
'"Suppliers and decorators employed by Crane appear in the C Howard Crane and 
Associates Catalogue of past works, courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect. 
" 7 Hall, 110. 


elaborate proscenium was a giant gold elephant's head. 

This fascinating gaudiness of exotic eclecticism characterized the grand 
lobby as well (fig. 73). The tones of golds and blood reds were interspersed 
with silver balconies at various points overlooking from the mezzanine 
lobby above. The entire lobby was also colonnaded at the sides in red to 
match the auditorium. Its focal point was the central staircase to the 
mezzanine. Guarding the staircase were giant reclining lions at the newels 
(fig. 74). Opposite and above the entrance doors was an elaborate double set of 
organ pipes, rising to the lobby's ceiling. 

Perhaps the most elegant spaces Crane designed in this theater were the 
elliptical stairways leading from the sides of the auditorium foyer all the way 
to the top of the balcony (fig. 75). Undoubtedly, like their counterparts in the 
Capitol Theatre of 1922, they were to keep the balcony patron from feeling set 
apart from the rest of the audience. Additionally, there was the peacock alley, 
a long and narrow hall that connected the two end balcony lobbies with small 
cove areas that formed bridges where one could look out over the grand lobby 
from high above (fig. 76). These probably were intended by Crane to be 
intimate areas into which one could retreat within this theater of such 
enormous proportions. Overall, the building was an experience of 

Once having planned and executed interiors as elaborate and 
complicated as these, it was only logical to reuse the drawings to build an 
identical Fox in St. Louis. Beyond this, what more could Crane and his 
decorators possibly create? As with the United Artists chain, the process of 
duplication was followed, but this time even more exactly. Eventually the 


two theaters were to become known as Crane's "twin" Siamese Byzantine 

masterpieces. 188 

Opened on January 31, 1929, the St. Louis Fox seated 5,042 people, 

slightly less than the Detroit auditorium. In fact, the two plans were so 

similar that at one point they were interchanged (figs. 77-78). In the minutes 

from the March 24 and 25, 1927 meetings, this decision was noted: 

It was determined to take the Detroit plan, which was 48 feet less 
over all, and place it on the St. Louis lot which would, therefore, 
leave a plot 48 feet at the back end of the property, which was to 
be left open through to Washington. 1 ® 

The only major difference between the two theaters were their 
exteriors. The Detroit Fox (fig. 79), built in the downtown area of Grand 
Circus Park (see fig. 35), was housed in a typically, but elaborately trimmed 
office building with accommodations for several retail spaces. It was ten 
stories high with an ornamental crown and large second floor windows. The 
St. Louis Fox (fig. 80), built at 527 North Grand Boulevard, was several blocks 
from that city's downtown. As office spaces would not have been practical in 
that location, Crane gave the theater the distinction of having an elaborate 
facade of its own. Borrowing an idea perhaps from some of his early 
nickelodeons, Crane gave the facade a large and richly ornate arch rising 
through most of the building's height (fig. 81). It is a building with this facade 
motif that architectural historian Richard Longstreth has characterized as the 
"vault."' 90 The St. Louis theater's arch, which curves freely at the top to 
complement the Baroque terra cotta ornament, is completely filled by one 

'"Mary Strauss and David Naylor, The Fabulous Fox: St. Louis (St. Louis, MO: Fox 
Theatre/Fox Associates), 6. 

1,9 Minutes of the Meeting, Office of William Fox, New York City, March 24 and 25, 1927, 3. 
"° Longstreth, The Buildings of Main Street, 110. 


large window that overlooks the grand lobby inside. 

Crane's Fox commissions represented the high point of his career; in 
1929 his firm moved into the Detroit Fox Building. 191 Without a doubt, C. 
Howard Crane and Associates planned this move with the anticipation that it 
would help to expose potential clients of the firm's capability to create spell- 
binding structures of enormous scale. However, with the onset of the 
Depression, Crane was not able to enjoy the fruits of past success. Fox Film 
Corporation experienced financial problems, preventing the company from 
completing what would have been Crane's greatest movie palace ever, the 
6,300 seat Philadelphia Fox. Its construction was to have begun in August of 
1929 on a site at 17th and Market Streets. Then it was postponed until 1930, 
with a hopeful opening date for the fall of that year. Instead the project was 
brought to a halt, as troubles in the Fox empire could not be solved. 192 By 1930, 
the movie studios felt the financial crunch and their campaigns of building 
chains of immense theaters ended. Crane was unable to secure any other 
large-scale studio commissions. The phenomenon of the movie palace, its 
styling and its aim to capture the public's fascination, had come to a close. 

The former movie palace architects were forced to re-evaluate their 
work. Some adopted a stylistic preference for a tamer Art Deco design. 
According to theater historian David Naylor, the Depression helped to bring 
about the adoption of this movement, as "an attempt to maintain a richness 
of design without spending quite so much." 193 This was not always entirely 
true. Theaters with Art Deco ornament could be flashy and very pricey at the 
same time. However, a shift toward downplaying and ultimately eliminating 

'•' Polk s Detroit City Directory, 1929-30. 

" 2 Irvin R. Glazer, Philadelphia Theatres A-Z ( Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1986), 119. 

'"Naylor, American Picture Palaces, 172. 


the overwhelmingly exotic and palatial interiors, typical of the movie palaces, 
was certainly evident. In the September, 1932 issue of The Architectural 
Forum, Samuel Rothafel, whose five year old Roxy was one of the most 
eclectically mindboggling movie palaces of all time, was now recommending 
a preference for a very different kind of theater. Using the newly built Radio 
City Music Hall as the ideal model, Rothafel warned that the architect should 
avoid "jarring decoration of the lobbies and lounges,"" 4 and the "interior 
should be as neutral as possible, preferably limited to the primary 
colors. "..Then adding,. "I think it is advisable to retain simplicity in the 
interior treatment, and to devote the money saved to equipping the theater 
properly." 195 This referred to equipment for sound movies, which had 
completely captured the public's eyes, and ears, and alone were bringing 
people into the theaters. Therefore, the primary role of the movie palace was 
taken away. It was no longer needed for "Lamb, Eberson, Crane and C.W. and 
George design the same type of basilica-like emporiums to the 
illusive God of movies." 196 

'"S.L. (Roxy) Rothafel, as told by John Cushman Fistere, "The Architect and The Box 
Office," The Architectural Forum, September^ 932, 195. 
'"Ibid., 196. 
'"Sharp, The Picture Palace: and Other Buildings for the Movies, 81. 



After his great studio successes, Crane's firm continued to receive some 
commissions for motion picture theaters, but mostly for smaller theaters in 
small towns. The firm's inventory book of projects for the years between 1930 
and 1932 list commissions such as the Strand Theatre, Tecumseh, Michigan; 
the Bijou Theatre, Battle Creek, Michigan; and several theaters in Michigan 
cities such as Port Huron, Flint, Niles and Kalamazoo. 197 By 1932, Crane was 
discouraged by his job prospects and financially troubled. In that year, he and 
his wife Freda moved to Europe 198 

Crane ultimately settled in London, where he lived until his death on 
August 14, 1952. He retained an office in Detroit, under the management of 
Dixon Kellogg and Elmer George Kiehler. According to his granddaughter, 
Crane visited Detroit approximately twice a year to see his son, who remained 
in the area. 199 Although he made it known that he did not wish to return to 
the United States, the people of Detroit were still proud of their home town 
architect, who had become a local celebrity in his day. When Crane visited 
the city, the newspapers reported it, accompanied by updates of his most 
recent accomplishments in England. The Detroit News on December 30, 1937 
reported "C. Howard Crane Returns to Detroit," and spoke of his 1935 design 
of London's Earl's Court, a $6,000,000 sports complex and amusement center 
of a proportion that Europe had never seen. On June 5, 1946 a Detroit News 
headline read "Town Talk - Architect's Return!" and stated that now all of the 
architect's time was dedicated to industrial design. And on November 18, 

187 Crane project inventory book, courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect. 
'"Gushee, telephone conversation with writer, 12 March 1992. 


1949 The Detroit Free Press wrote that as an architect of much success, having 
built more than 50 theaters in that city alone, unfortunately the "Ex-Detroiter 
Prefers Merrie Olde England." 200 

C. Howard Crane is still remembered fondly in Detroit, where many of 
his theaters remain standing. Orchestra Hall, beautifully restored, is once 
again home to the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. The Fox Theatre, also 
restored, is now one of the most highly attended entertainment facilities in 
the country. The former Capitol Theatre, currently in the process of 
restoration, will become the Detroit Opera House, a permanent home for the 
Michigan Opera Theatre. However, many of Crane's theaters, like those of all 
the great movie palace architects, have been lost due to neglect and urban 
decay. It is only with the dedication of today's varied range of committed 
forces, continuing their effort to bring an increasing awareness and 
appreciation of this architecture to the public, that we can hope to see the 
salvation and re-use of these grand buildings. It is crucial that the faithful 
support of dedicated committees, historical societies, enterprising businesses 
and arts organizations is continued, not only for the pleasure of preserving a 
unique time in America's past, but for the necessity of rescuing another part 
of the crumbling fabric of our cities. 

200 Newspaper clippings courtesy of the Burton Historical Collection, Detroit Public 


C lin\\.\i(l> i|;.iM. 

Fig. 1 C. Howard Crane (circa 1929) 


Fig. 2 National Theatre, 
Detroit, Albert Kahn, 

Fig. 3 Orpheum Theatre, 
Detroit, Smith, Hinch- 
man & Grylls (1914) 


Fig. 4 Empress Theatre, 
Detroit, auditorium 

Fig. 5 Empress Theatre, 


Fig. 6 Empress Theatre, 



Fig. 7 Garden Theatre, Detroit (1912) 


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E Q 


Fig. 11 Liberty Theatre, auditorium (1913) 



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Fig. 14 Regent Theatre, Buffalo (1914) 

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Fig. 15 Palace Theatre, Detroit (1914) 


First Floor PUn 

Majestic Theater, Detroit, Mich. 
C. Howard Crane, Architect 

Third Floor PUn 

Fig. 16 Majestic Theatre, Detroit, floor plans (1915) 


rPIU^ r - rtr 

Longitudinal Section, Majestic Theater, Detroit, Mich. 

Fig. 17 Majestic Theatre, longitudinal section (1915) 



H ' -> I I • f \M ARCHfTFCJ 

Fig. 18 Majestic Theatre, rear of auditorium 

1 i •"- t Dd ~~~» » K 

i o v ii » a v 

Fig. 19 Majestic Theatre, front of auditorium 


Fig. 20 Majestic Theatre, Detroit, (1915) 

Fig. 21 Regent Theatre, New York City, 
Thomas Lamb (1913) 








Fig. 22 Palazzo del Consiglio, Verona, 
possible source of influence for Crane 
and Thomas Lamb 






Fig. 23 Doge's Palace, Venice, 
possible source of influence for Crane 
and Thomas Lamb 


Fig. 24 Orchestra Hall, Detroit, auditorium (1919) 

Fig. 25 Orchestra Hall, Detroit (1919) 



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Fig. 27 Music Box Theatre, New York City (1921) 



Fig. 30 Music Box Theatre, box seat of auditorium (1921) 


..XVO^Tv^^SSSNNVf^NVW^yv .,-, ... .v . ■ sqj, ■«.ysv»-.\v 



Fig. 32 Harris and Selwyn Theatres, Chicago (1922) 


Fig. 33 Selwyn Theatre, 
box seat of auditorium 

Fig. 34 Harris Theatre, 
stage and proscenium 


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' 3 A •£/ O ii*WOooM 



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.« • 









C How»rd Cr»nt. Architect 


Fig. 36 Allen Theatre, 
Cleveland, floor plan 



Fig. 37 Allen Theatre, 
grand rotunda (1921) 


.«..*%..*..~*.. — ....... ~vw* : --^ i gBiyrg e tf 


Fig. 38 Capitol Theatre, Detroit (1922) partial view of present 
day facade 

til lit, Capitol Theatre, lh'lrtrit, Mich 

I I III', ,11 ,1 ( Villi!', . Ill lll'i , l 

Fig. 39 Capitol Theatre, outer lobby (1922) 








o ^ 


Fig. 42 Capitol Theatre, mezzanine foyer (1922) 

Fig. 43 Capitol Theatre, auditorium (1922) 


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Fig. 44 State Theatre, Detroit, 
mezzanine foyer (1925) 

;apitql-t h[atrl-dltail-" c ''°'- : \ 


Fig. 45 Sectional dia- 
gram for the State, 
Allen and Capitol 

Fig. 46 State Theatre and Palms Office Building, Detroit (1925) 


ft 1 •-■( I vim - lllllll 

Fig. 47 American Insurance Union Citadel, Columbus (1926) 


Fig. 48 United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles, auditorium mural 
portraying the motion picture industry, Mary Pickford in center 















j3 on 


o _ 

m £ 
■a 3 
« o 


• 3 

£ o 



















Fig. 55 United Artists, 
Los Angeles (1927) 

Fig. 56 Premiere of 
Mary Pickford film at 
the United Artists 







■- ■' « ',: 


i \iiii' miiim> iii> >i mi im> ••> »!■'>' in ii i>im. nnmiiT 

Fig. 57 United Artists Theatre, Detroit (1928) 



Fig. 58 United Artists Theatre, Detroit, floor plan and diagram 
of lot (1928) 


- ■ . - -* * ■" 2 

tMi ct'M. i \rri.i' < 

Fig. 59 United Artists, Detroit, auditorium (1928) 


Fig. 60 United Artists 
Theatre, Chicago, aud- 
itorium (1928) 

Fig. 61 United Artists, 
Chicago (1928) former 
Apollo Theatre of 1921 




OLt lo i r 

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It. tot i J 4*'-«"x9'-«- »v*-|o - .o' 




Fig. 62 Sectional dia- 
gram for the Brooklyn, 
Detroit, Philadelphia, 
St. Louis Fox Theatres 

Fig. 63 Proposed 
facade for the 
Philadelphia Fox 







Fig. 64 Fox Theatre, Brooklyn (1928) 



Fig. 66 Fox Theatre, Brooklyn, auditorium (1928) 


Fig. 67 Fox Theatre, 
Brooklyn, auditorium 

Fig. 68 Fox Theatre, 
Brooklyn, grand foyer 


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Fig. 69 Fox Theatre, Detroit (1928) 





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Fig. 74 Lion guarding the grand stairway, restored lobby of the 
Fox Theatre, St. Louis (twin to the Fox Theatre, Detroit) 































fill Ih.nlr,. Orlrnit. M„h, 

Fig. 79 Fox Theatre, Detroit (1928) 

Fig. 80 Fox Theatre, St. Louis (1929) present day facade 


Fig. 81 Fox Theatre, St. Louis (1929) present day facade 



A Working List of Crane's Theater Commissions 

The following list consists of theater commissions received by the 
office of C. Howard Crane, as recorded in Crane's project inventory book from 
the Crane archives collection, which is in the possession of Louis Wiltse, 
architect, Clarkston, Michigan. Omitted from the list are project numbers of 
commissions in the inventory book which were not for theaters. All 
information that was given in the inventory book about each theater is listed 
below. This information consisted of an assigned project number, and in 
some instances the name of the client and the theater's location. No 
reference to dates were given. The information listed below in parentheses 
was obtained from Andrew Craig Morrison, architect, Philadelphia, 
Pennsylvania, based upon his own ongoing research. 


Tob No. 



Woodward Avenue Theatre 


Majestic Theatre 


Empress Theatre 


Casino Theatre 


Robinson Theatre 


Columbia Theatre 


Mack Ave. Theatre 


Klatt Theatre 


National Theatre 


Gratiot Ave. Theatre 


Lynch Theatre 


Ritter Theatre 


Butterfly Theatre 


Garden Theatre 


Schneider Theatre 


Hippodrome Theatre 


Comique Theatre 


Cary Duplex 


Grand Rapids Theatre 


New York Theatre 


Brockius Theatre, Canton, Ohio 


Empire Theatre 


Lichtig Theatre 


Liberty Theatre 


Lincoln Theatre 


Idlehour Theatre 


Kline Theatre 


Palace Theatre 


Regent Theatre 


Regent Theatre, Buffalo 


Empire Theatre 


Marks Main St. Palace Theatre 


Ottawa Theatre 


Strand Theatre, Detroit 


Strand Theatre, Syracuse 


Francais Theatre, Montreal 


Vaudette Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI 


Alhambra Theatre 


Majestic Theatre, (Woodward & Willis) 


Washington Theatre 


Chatham Theatre 


Wyandotte Theatre 


Strand Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI 


Strand Theatre, Grand River, Scherer 


Saginaw Hippodrome Theatre 


Madison Theatre 


Globe Theatre 


Princess Theatre, Toronto 


Muskegon Theatre, (Western Ave. bet. 1st & 2nd) 


Oklahoma Theatre 


#205 Majestic alterations, Grand Rapids, MI 

#207 New Saginaw Theatre 

#209 Norbro Theatre 

#211 Drury Lane Theatre 

#216 Saginaw Palace Theatre,(Genessee Ave. bet. Baum Ave & Franklin) 

#217 Classic Theatre 

#218 Rosebud Theatre 

#221 Bijou Theatre alterations 

#223 Ferry Field Theatre 

#227 Atheneum, Jackson, MI, (remodeling), Majestic Theatre 

#228 Fuller Theatre/Kalamazoo, MI) 

#230 Russell Theatre, (Russel near Frederick, Detroit) 

#231 Circle Theatre, Indiana 

#233 Rialto Theatre, #1 

#241 Rialto Theatre, #2, Detroit, (north side of Gratiot) 

#242 Colonial Theatre 

#247 Oakland Theatre, Pontiac, MI 

#248 Fisher Amusement Room 

#250 Chicago Grove Theatre 

#259 Fine Arts Theatre 

#265 Beaux Arts Theatre, Adams 

#268 Catharine Theatre 

#273 Iris Theatre 

#275 Majestic Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#276 Ferndale Theatre 

#279 Glendale Theatre 

#285 Rialto, Muskegon 

#288 Tinny Theatre 

#289 Allen Theatre, Toronto 

#290 Youngstown Theatre 

#298 Plymouth, theatre & dance hall for Katie E. Allen 

#302 Lancaster Theatre 

#305 Ferndale Theatre 

#306 Alhambra, alterations 

#308 Lyric Theatre, Pittsburg 

#315 Alvin Theatre 

#320 Edmonton Theatre 

#321 Star Theatre, Chicago 

#326 Hippodrome Theatre, Akron, Ohio 

#328 Arcadia Theatre 

#329 Koppin Theatre 

#335 Wonderland Theatre, marquise 

#336 Allen Theatre, London, Ont. 

#340 Kramer Theatre 

#341 Allen Theatre, Winnipeg 

#342 Allen Theatre, St. Clair 

#343 Allen Theatre, London #2 

#344 Orchestra Hall 

#345 Empire Theatre, Toled 

#347 Grand Rapids, Nichols Theatre 

#349 Nederlander Theatre 


#350 Peoria Theatre 

#351 Beach, Allen Theatre 

#352 Vancouver, Allen Theatre 

#353 College, Allen Theatre 

#354 Victory Theatre 

#355 Anthony G. Theatre 

#356 Miles Detroit Opera House 

#357 Oakman Theatre 

#360 Kalamazoo Theatre 

#361 Victory Theatre, Slopski 

#362 Halifax, Allen Theatre 

#365 James Theatre, Columbus, Ohio 

#366 Allen Theatre, Cleveland 

#368 Allen Theatre, Detroit 

#369 Washington Theatre, marquise 

#374 Montreal Theatre 

#375 Fox Theatre, Springfield, Mass 

#382 Riviera Theatre, Ross G.R.R. 

#383 New Halifax Theatre #2 

#386 Shouks Theatre 

#388 Dudley Theatre 

#389 Strand, alterations 

#393 Arcade Theatre, Akron, Ohio 

#399 James Theatre, alterations, Columbus, Ohio 

#400 Kunsky theater, Mack Ave., Detroit 

#401 Music Box Theatre, N.Y.C. 

#402 Zakoor Theatre, Chatham 

#403 Comique, alterations 

#404 Asher's Theatre, Chicago 

#405 Asher's Roosevelt Theatre, Chicago 

#408 Fort Wayne, Majestic Theatre 

#410 Selwyn Twin Theatres, Chicago 

#411 Evansville Theatre, Chadwick 

#413 Macomb Theatre, Mt. Clemens, MI 

#414 Harry S. Koppin Theatre, Catherine St. 

#415 Majestic Theatre, alterations 

#416 DeLuxe Theatre, alterations 

#417 Kunsky Theatre, Capitol 

#422 Columbia Theatre seating plan 

#427 Omaha, Nebraska, World Theatre 

#433 Shubert Theatre Detroit, alterations 

#434 Cadillac Theatre, alterations 

#436 Kunsky, Royal Theatre, alterations 

#439 Windsor, Allen Theatre, stage alterations 

#441 Shubert Theatre, Michigan, alterations 

#449 Capitol Theatre, Jackson, MI 

#456 Rex Theatre, Jackson, MI 

#457 Arcadia, alterations, Detroit 

#460 Lyric Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI 

#461 Family Theatre, (Campus Martius) 

#464 Gladmer Theatre, Lansing, MI 


#467 Cosmos Theatre, Washington DC 

#477 Nederlander, Monroe St. Theatre 

#480 Orpheum Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI 

#517 State Theatre, Detroit, Kunsky 

#518 Playhouse, Bonstelle & Sloman 

#519 Lyric Theatre, Davis, Pittsburgh, 5th Ave. 

#521 Grand Theatre, Pittsburgh 

#527 John Biggio & Sons, Capital Threatre, Steubenville, Ohio 

#529 Games) Eastern Theatre, Columbus, Ohio (alterations) 

#534 M.S. Koppin, Republic Theatre 

#549 Max Allen Theatre, Fort Street (Lincoln Park, MI) 

#553 Tivola Theatre , (Highland Park, MI) 

#557 Allen Theatre, Plymouth, MI 

#559 Nederlander Theatre & Garage, 6 Mile & Woodward 

#562 Northville Theatre 

#564 Youngstown, Ohio Theatre, Schaffer & Trunk 

#566 Capitol Theatre, roof garden 

#573 William Klatt Theatre, (Woodward & Blvd.) 

#575 Woodlawn Theatre, Chicago 

#577 Wetsman Theatre, Grand River & Maplewood 

#583 H.S. Koppin Theatre, Chalmers & Mack 

#585 Fox Theatre, St. Louis 

#586 Embassy Theatre, Geo. Koppin, 2008 Woodward Ave., Detroit 

#590 Fox Theatre, Detroit 

#591 United Artists Theatre, Detroit 

#592 H.S. Koppin Theatre, Hint, MI 

#593 United Artists Theatre, Los Angeles 

#595 Fox Theatre, Brooklyn 

#598 Pontiac, MI, Oakland Theatre, Butterfield 

#599 W. James, Columbus, Ohio, New Theatre (W. Broad & Ogden) 

#600 Fox Theatre, Philadelphia 

#601 United Artists Theatre, New York City, Globe Theatre 

#602 Wm. Klatt, Woodward & Englewood theatre and hotel 

#604 Schlossman, Muskegon, MI (Regent, alterations) 

#606 United Artists Theatre, Kansas City, Alterations 

#614 Yaarab Temple, Fox Theatre, Atlanta, GA. (Mayre, Alger, Vinourand Assoc.) 

#626 United Artists Theatre, Appollo Theatre, Remodel 

#640 Miniger, Toledo, Theatre & Offices 

#645 Michigan Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#664 St. Paul, Minnesota, Auditorium 

#670 Philadelphia Opera House 

#688 Jonesville Theatre 

#689 Senate Theatre 

#692 Detroit Opera House, R.E. Olds 

#719 Center Theatre 

#737 Strand Theatre, Tecumseh, MI 

#744 President Theatre 

#750 Roosevelt Theatre 

#759 Family Theatre 

#760 9217 Grand River Theatre, Detroit 


#764 Gladmer Theatre, Lansing, MI, Butterfield 

#765 Garden Theatre, Flint, MI, Butterfield 

#766 Bijou Theatre, Battle Creek, MI 

#767 Theatre, North Lansing, MI, Butterfield 

#768 Alhambra Theatre 

#771 Nortown Theatre, Flint, MI 

#775 Punch & Judy Theatre, (Grosse Pointe Farms, MI) 

WT77 E. Lansing Theatre, Butterfield 

#778 Pontiac, MI, Oakland Theatre 

#779 Pontiac, MI, State Theatre 

#783 Lyric Theatre, Traverse City, MI 

#786 Strand Theatre, Holland, MI 

#789 Traverse City, MI, theatre and bowling alley 

#792 Theatre at Houghton Lake, MI, Olsen 

#797 Alhambra Theatre, Hillsdale, MI 

#800 State Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI, Butterfield 

#803 Michigan, Battle Creek, MI, Butterfield 

#808 Rouge Theatre, Associated Theatres 

#811 Wuerth Theatre, Ypsilanti, MI 

#820 Martha Washington Theatre, Ypsilanti, MI 

#853 Dawn Theatre, Hillsdale, MI, Butterfield 

#860 Sloan, Wyandotte Theatre, Twin 

#861 Sloan, Northwestern & 8 Mile, Detroit 

#863 Clawson Theatre, Redford, MI 

#883 Regent Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#885 Sloan, Grosse Pointe Theatre 

#886 Desmond Theatre, Port Huron, MI 

#892 Auburn Heights Theatre 

#899 Del-The Theatre 

#902 Minneapolis Theatre, Associated Theatres 

#903 Caldwell Theatre, St. Joseph, MI 

#906 Lakeview Theatre 

#909 Rialto Theatre, Wyandotte, MI 

#911 Lancaster Theatre, Associated Theatres 

#914 Family Theatre, Port Huron, MI 

#918 Holly Theatre 

#919 Majestic Theatre, Port Huron, MI 

#925 Desmond Theatre, Port Huron, MI 

#926 Eastern Theatre, Columbus, Ohio 

#931 Grande Theatre, Associated Theatres 

#932 Maltz Theatre, Alpena, MI 

#933 Palace Theatre, Flint, MI 

#936 Gaylord Theatre, Olson Bros. 

#938 Park Theatre, Kalamazoo, MI 

#942 Regent Theatre, Bay City, MI 

#945 Franklin Theatre, Saginaw, MI 

#950 Ready Theatre, Niles, MI 

#952 Riviera Theatre, Niles, MI 

#953 Ionia Theatre, Ionia, MI 

#954 Michigan Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI 

#955 Gaylord Theatre, Olsen Bros. 


#957 Holland Theatre, Holland, MI 

#958 Liberty Theatre, Benton Harbor, MI 

#959 State Theatre, East Lansing, MI 

#960 State Theatre, Traverse City, MI 

#961 Nortown Theatre, Lansing, MI 

#966 Oxford Theatre, Oxford, MI 

#967 Globe Theatre 

#970 Regent Theatre, Bay City, MI 

#972 Neth Theatre, Columbus, Ohio 

#973 Capitol Theatre, Jackson, MI 

#983 Family Theatre, Detroit 

#990 Rivola Theatre 

#991 Lansing Theatre, Butterfield 

#994 Temple Thatre, Saginaw, MI 

#995 Michigan Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI 

#1008 Capitol Theatre, Owosso, MI 

#1009 Strand Theatre, Sturgis, MI 

#1012 Regent Theatre, Bay City, MI 

#1014 Michigan Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#1015 Grand Theatre, Grand Haven, MI 

#1018 Strand Theatre, Muskegon Hts., MI 

#1019 Regent Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#1020 State Theatre, East Lansing, MI 

#1028 Wolverine Theatre, Saginaw, MI 

#1029 Oakland Theatre, Pontiac, MI 

#1034 Lyric Theatre, Cadillac, MI 

#1039 Esquire Theatre 

#1050 Ford Auditorium 

#1071 Rouge Theatre 

#1085 Michigan Theatre, Jackson, MI 

#1106 Desmond Theatre 

#1127 Croswell Theatre, Adrian, MI 

#1133 Paramount Theatre, Detroit 

#1141 Capitol Theatre, Flint, MI 

#1142 Campus Theatre, Ann Arbor, MI 

#1178 Michigan Theatre, Muskegon, MI 

#1184 Majestic Theatre, Grand Rapids, MI 

#1197 Circle Theatre 

#2605 Desmond Theatre (Huron) Port Huron, MI 

#2611 Nederlander Theatre 

#2642 Campus Theatre, Kalamazoo, MI 

#2652 Grand Rapids Theatre, Butterfield 



Firms Under the Patronage of C. Howard Crane & Associates 

The following illustrations of advertisements represent a partial record 
of contractors and suppliers used by C. Howard Crane & Associates. These 
were taken from Crane's 1929 catalog of Reproductions of Work Designed 
and Executed thru The Offices of C. Howard Crane Architect, Elmer George 
Kiehler, Ben A. Dore Associates, from the C. Howard Crane Archives, 
courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, Michigan. 


[HE success of the buildings 
illustrated in this brochure 
is substantially due to the 
combined efforts, skill and co- 
operation of the firms represented 
on the following pages. 


~n Si I II llnlil/nvru S \CI I \l C.LKANKH 

Spencer Central 

Cleaning Systems 

are installed in ;i ver> large manlier nl 
(lie fint'sl theatre building throughout 
llie country. Vniong the work ol Whi- 
ter! C. Howard Crane m;i\ Im' mentioned 

the follow i i iL r : 

J\\ll> THEATRE, Columbus 

BONSTELLK I'l.U Hoi si:. I). 


\D\\i> theatre. 

\l.l.i;\ THEATRE. Cleveland 

There i* ■ SPENCER suitable for un> ->/< buildinc 

large cr Mimll. and which ^i\.-- the same advantag i 

absolute dranlinem al I he Unreal operating rnsl vmi 

fur (iiinplii, cl.iniU 






n ndu "'-■■». 



. : | wir 


The American Insurance I 'nion Citadel 

standi, a realization of the dreams ol its projector*, u> architeci and ;t* 
builders — a monument to their ability and enter prise for a century to come. 

Northwestern Terra Cotta 

is proud of its pan — the making and retting of the entire lacing ol t!u> 
epochal edifice — proud ot the massive modeled ornament, the surface 
texture, the ceramic finish — that make the Citadel one ot the country's 
outstanding structures. 

The Northwestern Terra Cotta Comtani 



A Four Color Harmony of Especial Interest 


■ I 

1 - k * 

505 Fifth Ave 
New York City 


San Francisco 



Mud, I I). I 

***u Thutrr Drkm 

t«*i;TWf. Nr>Y<rt 

Mar. Thorn Cdotwd 

BullDdg Electric-Products Co 






Wire and Iron Works 

t,rnrrul Ojpi-r.t and Shupt 




Mmnufmriurm •*' 


Iron Stairs. Elevator Enclosures. Iron Fences and 
Gates. Fire Escapes. Wire Screens. Brass Railings. Iron 
and Wire Window Guards. Bronze Tablets. Counter 
Railings. Iron Lamp Standards and Brackets. Etc. 

( .ata 'og on applimlion 


I. J. THAMONTIN * IH\\ln\ ||\ 



— fcv- 


Successors to 





Office and Factory at 466-8 Columbia St.. West 




Electrical Stage 

A few of the Theatres I have equipped 
with Border Lights, Footlights, etc. 








Address: Keiv Detroit Opera House BIdg. 



»*..\n*»i.. raini 








1 IM I » I RM A\ III ILl'l Si; 

ST 1 i H IS, Ml I 

Monolithic method— Cement Floors and Concrete IDur, 
Tnu um{ m iht American Iruuraua ( 'mm Cim 




Plastering and 

Ornamental Platter 

W« plastered The DetroicLebnd 

Howl, also the Michigan Theatre 

and Office Building. 

We ire now ptutering The United 
Artiits Budding and The Foi 
Theatre and Office Building 

Marble fat beauty 
and Permanency 

The Norcross Marble Co. 


The World', 
Finest Marbles 



Artistic Orruimenuil Iron 
Bronze and Brass Wor\ 

EM=pl= o| our work mil be fowd on th. no United Art*. «v_ 




OLYMI \ri\a 

i m WD ' * Ufl %N *•- ■ 


Oftcr and Out Door Dupln 

EMPIRE 1-4, 
v.'ORTHW.A'* «kk» 

We Interpret in Terms of Marble 

The personality and individuality which 
the architect '» drawings express and were 
•elected to execute the beautiful marble 
work m the new Fox Theatre m Detroit 
Th<- marble work in the Olympia Sports 
Arena. Detroit n also an example of our 
craftsmanship and service- 

F. E. Gates Marble and Tile Company 




I HO«f«Dc«AMI INC umCUIB >..„....,. 




21 EAST 40th ST. 


run M»tirni ^ 



Architectural Books in the Collection of C. Howard Crane 

The following list of architectural books suggests a partial 
representation of sources used by Crane for reference and possible inspiration. 
This list is courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, Michigan. 



lide Auchor Dace Published 

or of Copyright 

Architectural Graphic Stds, 2nd Ed. Ramsey 11/39 


1. T-Square Club, 1901-1902 

Catalog of the Annual Architectural Exhibition 

2. Yearbook of the Architectural League of NY & 1918 
Catalog of the 33rd Annual Exhibition 

3. The Lincoln Memorial-Washington, DC Edward 1927 


4. Dictionary of Architecture & Bldg. Russell 1904 
A - E Sturgis 

5. Church Symbolism F R Weber 1927 

6. American Theatres of Today R W Sexton 1927 
(includes some of Crane's work) B F Betts 

7. Theatres Joseph Urban 1929 

8. Theatres & Auditoriums Burris-Meyer 1949 

& Cole 

9. Materiaux et Documents d ' Architecture et de prior to 
Sculpture, Vol. 2 thru 10 (complete set is 10) 1919 

10. Encyclopedie d ' Architecture V. Calliat 1851 thru 1857, 
(published annually) Vol. 1 thru 7 & 10, 11, 12 1860,1861,1862 

11. Houses & Gardens E. L. Lutyens 1914 

12. English Homes, Period III, Vol. II H. Avray 1927 
Late Tudor & Early Stuart 1558-1649 Tipping 

13. English Hones, Period IV, Vol. I " 1920 
Lace Stuart 1649-1714 

14. English Homes, Period V, Vol. I " 1921 
Early Georgian 1714-1760 

15. Handbuch der Kunstwissenschaf t Ernst Diez 
Die Kunst Indiens 

16. Die Architektonischen Ordnungen der L. Lohde Berlin 1872 
Griechen und Romer 

17. Architectural & Ornamental Details of Ancient Rome, 1919 

1 of 2 


Tide Auchor Dace Published 

or of Copyright 

18. Das Ornament der I talienischen Kunst Hermann Dresden 1882 
des XV. Jahrhunderts Ceorg Nicolai 

19. Byzantine Architecture & Ornament 1890 

20. The Architecture, Decoration & Furniture prior to 1919 
of the Royal Palaces of Milan 

21. L'Arte Bisantina in Italia A. Colasanti 1923 
(portfolio of plates) 

22. The Architecture of Classical Antiquity 

& of the Renaissance - First Part T D . , ion 
„., „ . c ~ , J. Buehlmann 1892 

The Order of Columns 

(Portfolio of 28 plates) 

23. The Architecture of Classical Antiquity 

& of the Renaissance - Second Part J. Buehlmann 
Facades, Arches, Doors & Windows 
(Portfolio of 25 plates) 

24. The Architecture of Classical Antiquity 

& of the Renaissance - Third Part J. Buehlmann 
Interiors & Decoration of Rooms 
(Portfolio of 25 plates) 

25. Chateaux de France - Vaux-le-Vicomte Hector 
(Portfolio of plates) St. Sauveur 

26. Chateaux de France - lie de France Hector 
cxterieurs et Interieurs St. Sauveur 
(Portfolio of plates) 

27. Chateaux de France - Anciens et Hector 
Moaernes - Exterieurs et Interieurs St. Sauveur 
(Portfolio of plates) 

28. The 3ook of the Boston Arcni tectural Club for 1925 
(Spanish Architecture & Details) 

29. The Minor Architecture of Southern Whittlesey 1917 

30 Old Architecture of Southern Mexico Garrstt 1926 

Van ?3lt . Jr. 

31. Mexican Architecture Atlee B. Ayres 1926 

2 of 2 



Negotiations and Planning with the Fox Film Corporation 

The following minutes from meetings and letters representing the 
correspondence between C. Howard Crane and the Fox Film Corporation, as 
well as Thomas Lamb and the Fox Film Corporation in regards to Crane's 
work, are representative of the negotiations and planning that took place for 
the Fox theaters. These are from the C. Howard Crane Archives Collection, 
courtesy of Louis Wiltse, architect, Clarkston, Michigan. 


4 P.M. MARCH 24th and 10 A.M. MARCH 25th, 1927. 

Present the 24th; 

Messrs. Fox, Zempner, Crane, Kellogg and Aronberg. 

Present the 25th: 

Messrs. Fox, Kempner, Crane, Kellogg, Sangar and Aronberg. 


As all items referred to in the Minutes of the 
two previous meetings, March 16th and March 17th, were 
reviewed at the meetings covered by this memo, this 
record, therefore, incorporates the final decision 
on all items in the Minutes of the two previous 
meetings, and the Minutes of the two previous meetings 
need not be referred to in carrying out the final 
instructions . 


Mr. Aronberg, at the request of Mr. Rogers, had discussed 
with S. W. Straus and Company the approval of Addenda "A" in con- 
nection with the Brooklyn budget, and pending the decision of 
Straus "Go Ahead" orders could not be given on the Brooklyn Job. 


The following is the determination in connection with the 
Detroit job: 

(a) The structure is to consist of the Theatre as 
drawn, except for possibly a few minor changes, 
and a Ten Story Office Building, the Office 
Building to be either Terra Cotta faced, or a 
combination of Face Brick and Terra Cotta as 
the budget may permit, and except for plate 
glass on the exterior and high speed elevators 
there is to be no special or elaborate treatment. 

(b) The foundations are now installed completely and 
are designed to carry a 19 story building, and 
no change will be made in these foundations. 


(c) The structural steel for a height of six stories, 

as now ordered and partly fabricated and practically 
completely detailed, is designed to carry a 19 
story building, but no changes will be made in this. 

(d) The balance of the steel necessary for a 10 6tory 
Office Building will, however, be designed 
sufficient to carry a 10 story Office Building 


£ - 

(e} The architectural design of the building will be 
for a 10 story building without provisions for 
extending to any greater height. 

(f) The present plan shoeing the entrance to the 
Theatre in approximately the center of the 
property, entering through Woodward Avenue, 
thereby dividing the Office Building into two 
sections, is to maintain. 

(g) The entrance, lobby and elevators in the north 
wing of the Office Building are to be omitted, 
and this space to be utilized for stores on the 
first story, and office space on the other 
stories, and the necessary structural, architectural, 
and mechanical changes are to be made to accomplish 
this, as the final determination to make the build- 
ing a fixed height of 10 stories without providing 
for increasing its height, establishes the permanent 
conclusion that this wing is not to have, at any 
time in the future, an entrance, lobby or elevators. 

(h) The south- escalator is permanently omitted and the 
space utilized for other purposes as no provision 
is to be made for future installation. This 
omission permits of a better layout for the elevators, 
lobby and entrance to the Office Building through 
the south wing, and the elevator installation is to 
be high speed and to take care of the requirements 
of both wings of the ten story building. 

(i) The crossover passaga connecting the north and south 
wings of the Office Building is to occur over the 
Theatre entrance vestibule at the east end, and this 
passage will consist of a corridor with a 6et of 
offices on both the east and west sides extending 
across the front of the building over the east 
end of the grand foyer, and this occurs on each floor 
up to and including the sixth. 

(J) On account of the shortening of the grand foyer, 
brought about by the crossover passage, it is 
advisable from an architectural standpoint to 
decrease the height of the grand foyer; so it 
is to be decreased in height a sufficient distance, 
(approximately 8 or 10 feet) to permit of the 6th 
floor office building layout being the same as the 
7th or typical floor, which adds about 4,000 feet 
net rentable area. In this connection, the roof 
girders over the grand foyer are to be designed 
to carry only the additional four stories of the 
ten story office building. 


3 - 


Original cube of St. Louis 

5,664,000 cu. ft. 
5.043,000 cu. ft. 

Overage, St. LouiG greater than Detroit 

621,000 cu.f1 

This was on account of the following: 

(a) St. Louis stage deeper than Detroit 

(b) Additional depth St. Louis back 

of Auditorium 

(c) Additional length of St. Louis foyer 








48 ft, 

It was determined to take the Detroit plan, which was 48 feet 
less over all, and place it on the St. Louis lot which would, there- 
fore, leave a plot 48 feat at the back end of the property, which was 
to be left open through to Washington. 

Mr. Crane and Mr. Eempner were to determine, by the plot sur- 
vey, whether to make this 48 feet or 50 feet. 


The following Estimates of Cost were submitted by the Con- 
tractor, including Building Cost and Contractor's Fee, but not in- 
cluding Architect's Fee, Furnishings, Carrying Charges, etc. 

Brooklyn ! 

First Budget, February 1927 
Revised Budget, March 1927 


This change in price was brought about through Addenda "A" which 
everyone considered, including Mr. Mlinar of Mr. Thomas W. Lamb's 
office, established the extent of the savings which could be made on 
this job. 

This amount was approved by Mr. Fox subject to the approval 
by Straus of Addenda "A", which Mr. Aronberg reported was being re- 
viewed by Straus, and he would have a decision in a few days. At 
this writing a conference has been scheduled for Monday morning, 
March 28th. 

Detroit : 

Eempner submitted the following allowances for Contractor, 
included in the Halsey, Stuart loan. 


- 4 - 

Detroit : (Cont'd) 

The Contractor submitted as an Estimate of Cost for the 
Theatre and 10 story building, the following: 

Mr. Fox's allowance for Theatre $3,366,000.00 

and six story office building 
Additional for the four stories, 435,240.00 


Theatre $2, 720, 000. 00 

Office Building 820,000.00 

One Story Commercial 54,000.00 

Elaborations 100,000.00 

Contingent 100.000.00 

TOTAL $3, 794, 000. 00 

The Contractor's estimate for this work, based on the Plans 
and Specifications was $3,610,000.00, but Mr. Fox's instructions were 
to practice the same economies on this Job as on the Brooklyn Job, 
through Addenda "A", and authorized the expenditure of $3,366,000.00 
which would have left a surplus in the loan of $428,000.00, and it was 
' considered advisable, at a previous meeting, to reduce the loan 

Mr. Crane then suggested that, inasmuch as the construction 
of a six story building in front of the theatre would expose the un- 
sightly roof of the theatre, it would be best to build a ten story 
office building. 

TOTAL $3,801,240.00 

It was, therefore, determined to proceed with the theatre and ten 
story building at tho allowance in the loan of $3,794,000.00, which 
as originally set up, was to take care of a theatre and six story 
building, but which, under the contemplated revisions, was to take 
care of a theatre and ten story building, and on this premise the 
the loan was not to be changed. 

St. Louis ; 

Mr. Eempner submitted the following building cost allowance 
in the Halsey, Stuart loan: 

Theatre $2,867,000.00 

Commercial 280,000.00 

Contingent 100.000.00 

TOTAL $3,267,000.00 

Based on changes in this memorandum, together with Mr. Fox's 
instructions to restudy the Job as was done by Addenda "A" for 
Brooklyn, and based on docreasing the cube of St. Louis by reason 
of duplicating the Detroit Job, Mr. Fox authorized the following ex- 


5 - 

St. Louis : (Cont'd) 

Theatre $2,521,500.00 

Commercial and 380.000.00 

Total $2,901,500.00 

Total of loan 

Overage in loan $365,500.00 

At a previous meeting it was considered advisable to de- 
crease the loan by the overages shown in this memorandum, as follows: 

Detroit $428,000.00 
St. Louie 365.600.00 

Total $793,500.00 ($750,000.00) 

tut Detroit, as explained hereinbefore, is not to be reduced, and as 
regards the St. Louis Job, as the requirements in connection with the 
commercial building are not yet determined, Mr. Fox is going to with- 
hold his decision on this for a short time. 



Summarizing, the Contractor's allowances are as follows: 

Brooklyn $2,418,232,89 
Detroit 3,794,000.00 
St. Louis 2,901,600.00 

On Brooklyn, the Contractor is not to proceed until Straus' 
approval of Addenda "A". 

On Detroit and St. Louis, the Architect must make extensive 
alterations in the Plans and Specifications, and pending completion of 
this information the Contractor is to work in close co-operation with 
the Architect, and award such contracts, and at such times, as may be 
considered to best serve the Interests of the Owner, and in such 
amounts as to keep within the budget allowances. 

It was considered by Mr. Fox, the Architect, and the Con- 
tractor, that the budget allowances had been cut to the lowest pos- 
sible point, but by careful study and close co-operation and careful 
buying at the proper time, that the cost could be kept within these 
allowances . 



- 6 - 

The following dates for completion were established by Mr. 

Brooklyn : 


Theatre D ec. 24, 1927 

Office Building ' D ec. 24, 1927. 

Theatre July 1, 1923 

Office Building Apr. 1, 1923 

St. Louis: 


Mr. Fox asked that Messrs. Crane, Zempner and Aronberg 
visit the Roxy and study itB variouB epeoial features, particularly 
the following: 

1. Seats, as to size and epaoing. 

2. Cyclorama and trough lighting of same. 

3. Usher signal system. 

4. Stage projeotion booth. 

5. Emergency room. 

6. Back stage construction. 


The final decision on seat size and spacing was as 

Brooklyn : 

As detailed, except that Auditorium is to be changed to 
10" aisles and the Mezzanine changed to 3' 4" aisles. 

Detroit and St. Loula: 

Same as the Roxy, namely: 

Orchestra E' 10" aisles 
Mezzanine 3' 4" aisles 
Balcony 2' 10" aisles 

The seat sizes for all Fox theatres are to be 20" and 


Theatre July 1, 1928 

Office Building Apr. 1, 1928 

- 7 - 

21" except for the Mezzanine which are to be 22", and it is realized 
that this will reduce the seating capacity of the various houses from 
that now detailed. 

The question of the stepping of the floors and the elope 
at each end seat at aisles, which was raised by Mr. Mllnar of lamb's 
office, was left entirely to the decision of Mr. Crane. 

The Brooklyn, Detroit, St. Louis and Newark houses are to 
have stage elevators the same as the Roxy. 

The Detroit, St. Louis and Newark houses are to have 
auxiliary organs in the grand foyer. 

The ticket office arrangement of the St. Louis and Detroit 
houses, as now drawn, was approved and the Brooklyn house is to have 
an auxiliary booth in one side wall of the entrance vestibule. 

It was definitely determined to omit the auditorium 
side loge seats, but the aisle spacing was left entirely to Mr. 
Crane's Judgment. 

Crane's offices are reminded to put the public urinals in 
separate rooms, as it is contemplated to use colored lavatories in the 
washrooms and these would clash with the white urinals if they were 
in the same room. 

The Contractor was cautioned to get a very special guaran- 
tee from Otis Elevator in connection with the soundproofing of the 
escalator installation. 

Wherever possible, on all Fox theatres, provide ar. access 
pipe space in back of lavatories, urlnale and closets. 

The office building door6, at Mr. Zempner's request, are to 
be one glass panel. 

Mr. Mllnar of Lamb's office did not submit, on March 24th 
as promised, his Addenda for the Detroit and St. Louis Jobs showing 
the possibility of savings. 

Mr. Crane is to submit to Mr. Zempner, as quickly as pos- 
sible, revised renting plans for the Detroit Job. 

There are to be no brass pipe rails in the Fox theatres, 
requiring polishing, and where there are to be exposed bronze rails 
they should be dull, natural finish, requiring no upkeep. 

These notes, where applicable, are to apply to all the ?cx 
theatres . 


AMoaweao-Fwien Gmmuinr.M-- 

Bldg. Aujiraisal 







hslsey, Stuart & Comuany, inc., 
14 faU Street, 
Hew Xorx-City 

Gentlemen i 

345 itadison Avenue 
Hew ZorkCity 

April 6th, 1927. 

At your request, the following is my appraisul of the 
so-called Fox .Building, in Detroit, iiichigan, consisting of a Theatre, 
Ten Story Office .building and a Cne Story .building to be erected for 
the Solwood Company in the City of Detroit, Michigan, as sho-m by the 
Architectural, Structural, liechanical and 31ectric:.l Dra*7i.:gs and 
Specifications prepared in the office of the undersigned. 

The land upon which it is proposed to erect the building, 
as indicated on the survey attached to the drawings, fronts 320 feet 
8 inches on the iiorth side of Columbia Street, J2 feet 4 inches on 
the .'/est side of .Vood.ard -ivenue -.nd 314 feet 11-3/4 inches on the 
3outh side of Hontcaln Ctreet, Detroit, Michigan. 

Our estimate of the value of the Veil otory Office i.uilti:!.:, 
the 5,000 sent Theatre, and the One Story Store Building on Columbia 
Street, vhen co: *letsd in -ccordance with the Dr>. -in££ ?.nd S ; ecif ic--ti ns 
ire-iar'sd by the under-igncd, v.nd including the J-ech;\nicil m .nA 1 
Building e^ui-in-nt, is Six Million, ..ine Thind.-ed Trcenty-Tvo r.j.-.t-na, 
yive i:undre"d dollars, - g6,922,500.00_. 

.'/e orti'jate the value of the furnishings, such v.s .e-t , 
ccroets, rugs, arteries, c.rtains, furnitire, st:.{;e soencry i.nd 
equipment, special* or, -an, etc.. at r.bsut --'our Ihuidred ar.ti .'ifty-V..O"X'-Bu 

iioii.-i, - Ar. , tctm 87,372,500.00. 

..edj C. 



AMOXBeao-FMED Compaot. t*r. 








ialsey, Stuart k Company, Inc., 
14 Wall Street, 
Hew York- City. 

345 Ifc-dicon Avenue 
Hew iorkCity 

April 6th, 1927. 

Gentlemen i 

At your request, the following is iro r appraisal of the 
so-called Pox Building, in Detroit, Idchigan, consisting of a The .tre, 
Ten Story Office .Building and a Cne Story .building to te erected for 
the Colwood Company in the City of Detroit, Lichigan, aa eho-rn by the 
Architectural, Structural, liechanical and 31cctric:»l Drawings and 
Specifications prepared in the office of the undersigned. 

The land upon which it is proposed to erect the building, 
as indicated on the survey attached to the drawings, fronts 320 feet 
8 inches on the i.orth eide of Columbia Street, 02 feet 4 inch?s m 
the .Vest side of V/ood- .ard -ivenue "nd 314 feet 11-3/4 inches on the 
South side of Hontcaln Street, Detroit, Michigan. 

Our estimate of the value of the Ven Story Office l.uilciin.:, 
the 5,000 seat Theatre, and the One Story Store Suilding on Columbia 
Street, vhen co:: vleted in -ccordance with the Drt. ;in£2 ?.nd S;-ecificiti 
.reiar'sd by the undersigned, and including the Lechcaicul -.nti Sr.-ici. 1 
Building et ; ui^-nt, is Six Uillion, ..ine T hind.-ed Tnenty-Vv-o Thr't^nd, 
yire inindred iJollars, - 3 6,322 ,500.00. 

Ye jctiX-te the value of the furnishings, such ce ve-t , 
caroet^, n=g:--, cir^-eries, c.rtains, furnitire, stage scenery •;•- 
equipment, s >ecial or, -an, etc.. at .-."oDitt .'our .'/iiurtd ami .'ifty-.-.o x_: 
jJo'll.-", - A«. ,-j0.00. VCT.'.L J7, 372, 500.00. 

(S:,. .ed) C. 








lOant - Liability ft Compensation Inaurance - 

Job Administration 
Wrecking, Excavation ft Foundationa 
Concrete * Pi reproof ing 

Carpentry & Killwork & Bardv;are 
Structural Steel 
Granite * Terra Cotta 

OscellaneouB 4 Ornamental Iron * Bronze 
Letal Windows 

Hollow Ketal, Tin Clad t Kalamein 
Purring, lathing, Plastering, Scagliola 

and Art Uarble 
Roofing, Sheet Xletal 4 Waterproofing 
lSirble, 31ate, Tile & Terray.zo 
Gla^s, Glazing &. Structural Glass 
Elevator, s Escalators & Orchestra Lift 
iieatint. Ventilating fc Refrigeration, Etc. 
Plumbing, Vacuum, Etc. 
Electrical Work 
Minting &■ Acoustical Work 

Contractor's Fee - 6% 
Architect' r Fee - 6JJ 
Carrying Charges 



Total $5,067,461.32 


Total »5. 371,509.00 


Total 35,693,800.00 


Total »6, 922,500.00 

Total „i7,372,500.00. 


Grind Total 

911,122, 500.01 



Irortl Mk v 197t 

s^« «. ft. a .53 |s,BTr.Tr. 

ircMVict»3 FM 35 


■ (io ito^r ) 

2,114,000 M.n.141 l,i*7.*X,.00 
A.-cMt-et'.' ?oe. Of , 

to,ifl? jstja 


(li.e 1 .tt , .i-< Arc'iit *>*.•- p-e. 

/ii«tlc::-l Cost tar Faisi- tlor.i. 

tot;l co ? of ut pv t; t 

T £• lle-rw» of ttf%W W f*r f-JTi J t.i .« f; 

:!. lt.TO.- .-3 3t-t3 s e^rr^t-i ""•©?» * ■?'l n ?t •--■2* '-"" 

K 6tft AT K> 

?r7 ♦. v'^ 

?4 r*r*Jo 

t..: <U 




April Itfc, li*T 

a»l» y, Stairt 1 Co=r*jy, Ine 
14 *nll Str-at, 

gf- I£EI3. tO 

Aft yncr repwt, th- faUaalEf la ay .-stlcat* of coat of 
♦N» co-cnlled, ta Bulldlnr* la 3t. Lanla, ab., coatlrtlax of ■ Tntn, 
Tsc Story Br^.oEslcr?, TOo Story Taxp-yar, OM Story Tair-syer «s4 Ons 
Jtury Ho: talent to ba srcetod Tor the nt.-r.tra }.oslty Zem. ->nj lr t'« 
Clio/ of St. Loula, Mswri, 33 atari by 'Jus Architectural, St •uetr'-el 
■aehanical. and SlactrlSRl ." «»lr.»s and aaanifleati'jca jrararod lr. Vtm 
of*ico a? thr- OBiar.-iKTiad. 

X ?ana also anrfa aa <sss*:r.f.ticm of V » rr?*oat Sir Story 
Pncbaldt Balla'.af adjaialrf. tlw abora aaotlanaH rro; oaad build 1 -.53. 

3s>«d area t:<eao rfra»i-ra M* r -lcaa of aatarlali jx= liber 
pfarittlyfi la St. Lotls, ao., aa ef tcrXl 397T, tests'* :g ArcMtrxt 
and Csrtraetrtr'i F*an, sac not induing ""m-"*! o^rttftl ca^t:-. err.~ 
•iatlBc of orgaaiMtloa ana as^ii-at, latca* 'ir'?.r ror.:V ::c- 
tlor, t^xca tali " ■ — daring eoDatractloa erd lastnllatlcr, r* p.-« 
of tba opinion t?:«t Tho ; T .". «oa» day co.-t af ar^etLif a 77-a'tra, 7ro 
Story nrtaaalon, T=a Story Ttarpwyw. °»a Ctary Taxpayer, -a* Can Stary 
r-aattn-nt, MoeValeal «»5 s^sclf.l v-a: "n,- aij.d-a-nt, lr. 
•eco-danoo »4ta oar droalnjra r-nd c •ol/ioatlasj, rill writ to 

-• aa falloaai 


:, 043.00? ro. ft. o.:4 t*.7rs,H0. 
Architect's ?3* «t lK.J'W 

1- !"1.^?^ 


(fecial lr* AmhltaaVs Tan,. 


f ,S*0.61?.30 



Colsood Sapuir, 
190 tonth *twd 
Is* Xoik City. 


story and t*a 

c£fi iounte»lM ctrttt, «o£ •atLftato ths costs •* MUOTM 

Tnsstr* 6,34»»MI auft. J .BS S£,7T7,8O*.10 

Office Bid*. S,07€,5£0 cu.ft. • .85 1,848, 788.10 

(including tenant layouts) ™ " 

Cost Including *«on tractor «s *M 4, 1*7, 041. K 
Arch it oct's »•« 8* 

Furnishings — 

Total Building Cost t4,7M,6«.ei 


Interest uurli.g cona Uueti ■*» 

Ground ^ent 


753, >O0.00 




§ t 430,0>0.90j c-;valc 83t:» 

Rospeetfully suovltted, 



A Photographic Listing of Crane's Existing Theaters in Detroit 

The following list consists of the last remaining theaters designed by C. 
Howard Crane and Associates and their current usages in the city of Detroit. 
This information is based upon the findings of a survey of the city carried out 
by the writer. Information of their locations, name changes, dates of 
completion, and sizes was taken from Andrew Craig Morrison's Opera 
House, Nickel Show, and Palace: An Illustrated Inventory of Theater 
Buildings in the Detroit Area (1974). Information on their historic 
designations were obtained from the Historic Designation Advisory Board of 
the Detroit City Council and the Michigan Bureau of History, Lansing, 
Michigan. The current conditions of the theaters have been evaluated as 
"good," if the theater has been restored and the majority of its original fabric 
is intact; " fair," if the theater has been adaptively re-used or is planned for 
future rehabilitation and some of the original fabric was or will be retained; 
"poor," if the theater is abandoned and deteriorating with little or none of the 
original fabric remaining. 


Name: Addison Theatre. 

Later Name: The Fine Arts Theatre, changed in 1915. 

Address: 2954 Woodward Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1914 

Size: 582 seats. 

Current Use: Abandoned. 

Current Condition: Poor. 

Historic Designation: None 


Name: Bonstelle Playhouse. Originally the Temple Beth El. 

Later Name: Wayne State University Theatre, changed in 1951. 

Address: 3424 Woodward Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1906 by Albert Kahn. Remodeled by Crane, 1925. 

Size: 1200 seats. 

Current Use: Owned and occupied by the Wayne State Univ. Theatre. 

Current Condition: Good. 

Historic Designation: On the National Register of Historic Places. 


Name: Orchestra Hall. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 3740 Woodward Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1919. 

Size: 2286 seats. 

Current Use: Home of the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. 

Current Condition: Good. 

Historic Designation: On the Local, State and National Registers of Historic 





Name: Garden Theatre. 
Later Name: The Sassy Cat. 
Address: 3929 Woodward Avenue. 
Date Completed: 1912. 
Size: 903 seats. 

Current Use: Pornographic theater. 
Current Condition: Fair. 
Historic Designation: None. 


Name: The Majestic Theatre. 
Later Name: Unchanged. 
Address: 4136 Woodward Avenue. 
Date Completed: 1915. 
Size: 1651 seats. 
Current Use: Dance Club. 
Current Condition: Fair. 
Historic Designation: None. 


Name: The Fox Theatre. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 2211 Woodward Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1927. 

Size: 5041 seats. 

Current Use: Entertainment center 

Current Condition: Good. 

Historic Designation: On the National Register of Historic Places. 


Name: The State Theatre. 

Later Name. Unchanged. 

Address: 2111 Woodward Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1925. 

Size: 2967 seats. 

Current Use: Dance Club, rock bands. 

Current Condition: Good. 

Historic Designation: On the National Register of Historic Places. 

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Name: Adams Theatre. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 44 West Adams Street. 

Date Completed: 1917. 

Size: 1770 seats. 

Current Use: Owned, but no current plans for restoration or development. 

Current Condition: Fair. 

Historic Designation: Included in the Grand Circus Park Historic District, 
National Register of Historic Places. 


Name: Capitol Theatre. 

Later Name: The Grand Circus Theatre, changed in 1960. 

Address: 1526 Broadway. 

Date Completed: 1922. 

Size: 3367 seats. 

Current Use: Undergoing restoration. Future home of the Michigan Opera 

Current Condition: Fair. 

Historic Designation: Included in the Grand Circus Park Historic District, 
National Register of Historic Places. 



Name: The Madison Theatre. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 22 Witheral Street. 

Date Completed: 1917. 

Size: 1806 seats. 

Current Use: Owned by the Michigan Opera Theatre. Future plans for 

Current Condition: Fair. 

Historic Designation: Included in the Grand Circus Park Historic District, 
National Register of Historic Places. 

S ^ 


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Name: The United Artists Theatre. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 140 Bagley Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1928. 

Size: 2070 seats. 

Current Use: Development plans for a restaurant, retail space, lofts. Owned 
by David Grossman. 

Current Condition: Fair. 

Historic Designation: Included in the Grand Circus Park Historic District, 
National Register of Historic Places. 


Name: Globe Theatre. 

Later Name: Unchanged. 

Address: 3520 Grand River Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1912 by Harley & Atcheson, architects. Enlarged and altered 

by Crane, 1915. 

Size: 650 seats in 1912; 853 after Crane's alterations. 

Current Use: Abandoned. 

Current Condition: Poor. 

Historic Designation: None. 



Name: The Chopin Theatre. 
Later Name: Unchanged. 
Address: 7320 Michigan Avenue. 
Date Completed: 1922. 
Size: 400 seats. 
Current Use: Fabric store. 
Current Condition: Fair. 
Historic Designation: None. 


Name: The Harmony Theatre. 

Later Name: Changed to the Admiral in 1941. 

Address: 11205 Mack Avenue. 

Date Completed: 1921, architect unknown. Altered by Crane and Associates 


Size: 1322 seats. 

Current Use: Abandoned. 

Current Condition: Poor. 

Historic Designation: None. 



Barry, John E, Paramount Pep Club Year Book, 1926, quoted in 'Times 

Square Paramount" Theatre Historical Society Annual No. 3 (1976). 

Berg, Scott A. Goldwyn. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1989. 

Bergreen, Laurence. As Thousands Cheer: The Life of Irving Berlin. New 
York: Viking Penguin, 1990. 

Branch, Mark Alden and Abby Bussel. "Restoring Dreams." Progressive 
Architecture, June 1990, 92-99. 

'The Brooklyn Fox Theatre." Introduction by Michael R. Miller. The Theatre 
Historical Society Annual No. 9 (1982). 

Bullock, E.C.A. 'Theater Entrances and Lobbies." The Architectural Forum, 
June 1925, 369-372. 

"Chicago / Midwest Conclave, 1986." Marquee: the Journal of The Theatre 
Historical Society, Volume 18, No. 2 (1986): 6-7. 

Clemens, Clara. My Husband Gabrilowitsch. New York: Harper and Brothers 
Publishers, 1938. 

Commission on Chicago Historical and Architectural Landmarks. North 

Loop Redevelopment Project. Harris and Selwyn Theaters. Chicago: 
CHAL, 1982. 

Crane, C. Howard. "Observations on Motion Picture Theaters." The 
Architectural Forum, June 1925, 381-384. 

Ferry, Hawkins W. The Buildings of Detroit. Detroit: Wayne State University 
Press, 1968. 

Fletcher, Banister, Knt. A History of Architecture On the Comparative 

Method For Students, Craftsmen & Amateurs. 1896. Reprint of 16th 
edition. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1956. 

Frary, IT. 'The Allen Theatre: C. Howard Crane, Architect." Architectural 
Record, November 1921, 359-369. 


Glazer, Irvin R. Philadelphia Theatres A - Z.. Westport, CT: Greenwood 
Press, 1986. 

Hall, Ben M. The Best Remaining Seats: the Story of the Golden Age of the 
Movie Palace. New York: Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1961. 

Hays, Will H. "The Motion Picture Industry: 'Service' the Supreme Purpose. 
American Review of Reviews, January 1923: 65-80. 

Henderson, Mary C. The City & the Theatre: New York Playhouses from 

Bowling Green to Times Square. Clinton, NJ: James T. White & Co., 

Holleman, Thomas J. and James P. Gallagher. Smith, Hinchman & Grylls: 
125 Years of Architecture and Engineering. Detroit: Wayne State 
Univ. Press, 1978. 

Irwin, Will. The House That Shadows Built. Garden City, New York: 
Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1928. 

Kauffman, Preston J. Fox: The Last Word - the Story of the World's Finest 
Theatre. Pasadena, California: Showcase Publications, 1979. 

Klaber, John J. "Planning the Moving Picture Theatre." Architectural 
Record, November 1915, 540-554. 

Knodel, H.W. "Position and Outlook for Four Leading Moving Picture 
Companies." The Magazine of Wall Street, November 3, 1928. 

Koszarski, Richard. Universal Pictures: 65 Years. New York: MCA 
Publishing, 1977. 

Koyl, George S., ed. The 1956 American Architects Directory. New York: 
A.I.A and the R.R. Bowker Co., 1955. 

Leeds, Stanton. "The Powers Behind the Screen: Who's Who in the Motion 
Picture Business." Motion Picture Classic, December 1923. 

Longstreth, Richard. The Buildings of Main Street : A Guide To American 
Commercial Architecture. Washington DC: The Preservation Press, 

Mlinar, Emil M. "Motion Picture Theatre Data." Pencil Points, June 1922. 


Mlinar, Emil M. "Motion Picture Theatre Data Part II." Pencil Points, July 

Mlinar, Emil M. "Motion Picture Theatre Data Part III." Pencil Points, 
September 1922. 

Mlinar, Emil M. "Motion Picture Theatre Data Part IV." Pencil Points, 
October 1922. 

Mlinar, Emil M. "Motion Picture Theatre Data Part V." Pencil Points, 
November 1922. 

Morrison, Andrew Craig. Opera House, Nickel Show, and Palace: An 
Illustrated Inventory of Theater Buildings in the Detroit Area. 
Dearborn, Michigan: Greenfield Village & Henry Ford Museum, 1974. 

Morrison, Andrew Craig and Lucy Pope Wheeler. "Orchestra Hall, Detroit: C. 
Howard Crane, Architect." Marquee: the Journal of the Theatre 
Historical Society, Volume 21, No. 4 (1989). 

Naylor, David. American Picture Palaces: The Architecture of Fantasy. New 
York: Prentice Hall Press, 1981. 

Naylor, David. Great American Movie Theatres. Washington DC: The 
Preservation Press, 1987. 

National Trust for Historic Preservation. Preservation of Concert Halls, 

Opera Houses and Movie Palaces. No. 16. Washington D.C: NTHP, 

Nolan, Thomas, ed. "The Moving Picture Theatre." Architecture and 
Building, May 1911, 319-365. 

Pereira, PR. 'The Development of the Moving Picture Theatre." The 
American Architect, September 23, 1914, 177-184. 

Pickford, Mary. Sunshine and Shadoio. Garden City, New York: Doubleday 
& Company, Inc., 1955. 

Roddick, Nick. A New Deal In Entertainment: Warner Brothers in the 1930's. 
London: The British Film Institute, 1983. 

Rothafel, S.L., as told by John Cushman Fistere. 'The Architect and The Box 
Office." The Architectural Forum, September 1932, 194-205. 


Safer, Karen J. "The Function of Decoration in the American Movie Palace." 
Marquee: The Journal of the Theatre Historical Society, Volume 14, 
No. 2 (1982): 3-9. 

Sharp, Dennis. The Picture Palace: and Other Buildings for the Movies. New 
York: Frederick A. Praeger Publishers, 1969. 

Strauss, Mary and David Naylor. The Fabulous Fox: St. Louis. St. Louis, 
Missouri: The Fox Theatre / Fox Associates, 1985. 

Whittemore, Charles A. "The Motion Picture Theater: Comparison of Two 
Types oi Plan." Architectural Forum, June 1917, 171-176. 

Windeler, Robert. Sweetheart: The Story of Mary Pickford. New York: 
Praeger Publishers, 1974. 

Young, William C. Documents of American Theater History: Famous 

American Playhouses 1900-1971. Chicago: American Library Assoc, 


Su ggested Readings Concerning the Fate of Crane's Theaters 

Anstett, Patricia. "Monroe Block: Abandoned History." Detroit Free Press, 
15 May, 1988. 

Branch, Mark Alden and Abby Bussel. "Restoring Dreams: Communities Are 
Discovering the Reasons and the Means to Restore their Lavish Movie 
Palaces." Progressive Architecture, June 1990, 92-94. 

Christiansen, Richard. "Goodman Sets the Stage for a New Loop Theater." 
The Chicago Tribune, 7 January, 1992. 

"Dr. Gene Scott Plans to Restore United Artists Theatre." Proscenium: 

Newsletter of the Los Angeles Theatre Foundation, Volume 1, No. 2 
(August, 1989): 4. 

Dunning, Jennifer. "St. Louis Rebuilding a Once-Grand Theater Area." The 
New York Times, 29 August, 1991. 

Gamerman, Amy. "Detroit Dusts Off Its Grand Old Theaters." The Wall 
Street Journal, 25 October, 1990. 

Howard, Carol. "Recapturing the Fox." Detroit Monthly, December 1988, 

'Tlitch and The Fox: A Bold Plan to Restore Detroit's Theatre District." 
Performing Arts In Michigan, April 1988, 13-19. 

Stearns, Patty LaNoue, ed. "All Detroit is a Stage." Detroit Monthly, 
February 1991, 15. 

Swindell, Mary. "Curtains for Cleveland's Landmark Movie Theater." 
Historic Preservation News, March/April 1992. 


Anne & Jerome Fisher 


University of Pennsylvania 

Please return this book as soon as you have finistedwith 
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